Monday, 28 December 2015

Dutch Beer of the Week


As it's the festive season let's have a look at a Christmas themed beer. As you can see the jolly chap on the label hasn't really got into the Christmas spirit but I think he'd be smiling after a glass of this.

I've already talked about Brouwerij Rodenburg and, in my opinion, it's certainly one of the stars of the Dutch beer scene. The owner-brewer is Yorkshireman Steve Gammage who has been in the Netherlands for about 30 years and his beers are increasingly confident and successful.

So, on to Scrooge. Tim Skelton's Beer in the Netherlands describes this as "a seriously full-on dark Christmas ale that is a classic in the making".  He's not wrong.  There's a complex grain bill including Pils, Carapils, Diastatic malt,  Cara Red, Whiskey and Peated malts (or so the label tells us).  These contribute to the spicy nose which is also slightly medicinal like thick old-fashioned cough syrup. Beyond that there are very complex flavour notes in there  - wafts of spice, peat, smoke and rich Christmas cake jockey for attention in a very appealing way. 

This could be a cloying malt-fest but it's not because the cavalry arrives in the form of a crisply bitter finish. The hops are Green Bullet, Phoenix and First Gold and bring rather more to this beer than the label's claimed three bitterness units would suggest (given both the hop grist and the notably bitter finish I suspect this must be a misprint). Indeed the thought occurred to me that if I was brewing in a railway arch in London I might be tempted to call this a "Christmas IPA".   

I'm back in the Netherlands in three weeks time (for this) and I'll certainly be looking out for a couple of these to bring home. 

Monday, 21 December 2015

Dutch Beer of the Week

Elsener Bierbrouwerij Pochpoater White IPA

It's been a while but we're now back up and running here at JC's Beer Blog with a new Dutch Beer of the Week (and yes, I know the last one was on 26 October...).

Right then, White IPA.  It's another variant on everyone's favourite beer style and one that I've rather enjoyed so far. It's shorthand for beers that combine serious hopping (usually of the American variety) with the spiciness and grain bill of a Belgian (or Dutch) witbier, and they can be hugely enjoyable and refreshing. There are a lot of them around as Ratebeer demonstrates.

So, on to this little number.  I know very little about the brewery. It's based in Elsen, which is in the east of the Netherlands (in Overijssel province) and it started up in 2014. The website just leads to a Facebook page but it's clear from there (and Ratebeer) that a considerable number of modern-sounding beers have been produced. In essence this was just a random purchase of an interesting-sounding beer in a style I like.

The label tells me that it's a witbier in the American style with a distinct hop profile. There's wheat malt in there so that's good but I see it's just 30 bitterness units and 5% ABV - both at the bottom end of what I might expect for a beer of this description. Pouring, it's a hazy pale lemon with no head to speak of. There's a sweet spiciness on the nose, with hints of orange peel perhaps, and this lingers all the way down the glass (and gets a bit cloying by the end to be honest) - however the ingredients don't indicate there's any spice or other addition to the beer so I'm assuming the esters are yeast-based.  As a drink it's quite light-bodied and while it's refreshing enough the "distinct hop profile" (or the "duidelijk hopprofiel" as the label has it) seems to be largely missing in action. It's perhaps a bit too much "white" and not enough "IPA" and certainly needs a bit more of everything I think.

I'm certainly not writing off this brewery on the basis of just the one beer as it seems to be quite an interesting set-up with lots of ideas.  It's just a shame that this one, on the basis of this bottle, didn't quite work.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Golden Pint Awards 2015

Firstly apologies for the lack of activity here. It's been busy and the blog took a back seat. However this is a good reason to fire it up again and hopefully "Dutch Beer of the Week" will be back in a  few days and run through until the middle of January (when I'm off the the Netherlands for Gouda Winterbier Festival). So, down to business:

Best UK cask beer  No doubt about this one - Track Brewing Sonoma. Sam Dyson hasn't put a foot wrong since he started Track in late 2014 but this 3.8% beauty is a triumph. Oozing with tropical fruit goodness and a moreish bitter kick at the end this was, and remains, an instant classic.

Best UK keg beer  The lagers from Cloudwater Brewery have been tremendously good, particularly the first in the series which was brewed using only British ingredients. Nailed the style from the off.  Very honourable mentions must go to Hawkshead Brewery for two very different beers: Chocolate & Tonka Bean Imperial Porter and at the other end of the spectrum Chuckleberry Sour.

Best UK bottled beer  Almost anything from Buxton of course but I'm giving the honours to Cloudwater again and their magnificent DIPA. 

Best UK canned beer   I haven't drunk much  but Moor Hoppiness was terrific.

Best overseas draught  Easy this one.  Sahtipaja Blueberry & White Chocolate Berliner Weisse. I was lucky to meet the Sahtipaja brewer, Timo Krjukoff, at Carnivale Brettanomyces in Amsterdam. He's a great guy and his beers are outstanding. He also brought along other Berliner Weissen - one with raspberry and cinnamon and the other with bitter orange and botanicals. Absolutely knock-out.

Best overseas bottled beer   There have been a lot of good ones this year but it's got to be the 't Ij Bridgeport Barley Wine brewed in collaboration with Marz Brewing of Chicago.  It's got some age on it now and is a classic modern barley wine (it's about 10%). Far too easy to drink.

Best overseas canned beer   Pass

Best collaboration brew   For me it was the Hawkshead / Crooked Stave beer made for the Rainbow Project. Key Lime Tau was the star turn when I went to the launch day at the Magic Rock Tap. 

Best overall beer   Got to be Sonoma.

Best branding / pump clip / bottle label   I think Manchester's Runaway Brewery has a classic and instantly recognisable image.

Best UK brewery  For sheer breadth of innovation combined with quality it's hard to beat Buxton at the moment.  I've also had a handful of seriously good beers from Gloucester Brewery and the North Riding Brewery. The latter is certainly "one to watch" I think.

Best overseas brewery   Sometimes you come across someone who you know is a star in the making so heads up to Tommie Sjef Koenen an amateur Dutch lambic blender whose beers were sensational at Carnivale Brettanomyces.

Best brewery opening  In the UK it's hard to say anything but Cloudwater to be honest. Overseas then it's got to be Brouwerij Kees in the Netherlands.  When the former Emmelisse head brewer told me he was setting up on his own I  knew something special was on the way and so it has proved to be.

Pub / bar of the year  The two, rather different, places I've had some of the best times and the best beers this year are Ye Olde Vic in Stockport and the cellar  bar/ tasting room at Beermoth in Manchester.

Best new bar / pub opening  OK it only opened on 11th December but it's still got to be Manchester's Cafe Beermoth. Further afield the Uiltje Craft Beer Bar in Haarlem is hugely enjoyable.

Beer festival of the year  The Gents Bierfestival in Ghent is quietly one of the best festivals in Belgium. Low key, very friendly and always with an inspired beer list.  In the UK the Hawkshead events are unmissable of course.

Independent retailer of the year  Well I've spent the most money at Beermoth in Manchester so it must be them.

And finally....

Best beer blog  Although there have been recent signs they might be losing their mojo, Team Stonch has been a breath of fresh air this year. A close second must be Matthew Lawrenson's Seeing the Lizards which really takes no prisoners.