Tuesday 25 June 2013

The Week in Beer: 26-30 June, 2013

Here, enjoy this, the first installment of the London Beer Guide's Week in Beer. If you think there's something missing (or heaven forbid I messed something up), please drop us a tweet @londonbeerguide.

Wednesday, 26 June:
  • The Bottle Shop Tasting at Notes Covent Garden
    • The Bottle Shop's Andrew will take you through a range of beers, including the obscure Kernel BADSCCANS. Further information here.
  • Wild Card Meet the Brewer at Strongroom
    • Listen to live music and meet the brewer from Wild Card. Learn more here.
  • Weird Beard at the Rake
    • The Rake will have on offer a moderate range of beer's from West London's Weird Beard. It's a mini tap takeover.
Thursday, 27 June:
  • Camden Town Brewery launches new collaboration beer
    • The first chance to try the Camden/ Odell collaboration Baltic Porter. A bit more information on the brew can be found here.
  • The Hope Carshalton Firestarter Beer Festival (27-29 June)
    • The Hope offering up a solid range of cask and keg beers. See here for the beer list and other festival details.
Friday, 28 June:
  • Tap East's first beer festival (28-30 June)
    • Tap East will be having their first Open Brewhouse Beer Festival. Looks like they'll have a solid range of Tap East beers, collaborations, one-offs and old favourites. Further information here
Saturday, 29 June:
  • Craft Beer Co. Clerkenwell 2nd Birthday Party (29-30 June)
    • Big event, this one. If the lineup of beers is anything like it was last year this will be a pretty gnarly session. Beers will likely be turning over fairly quickly and there's a large back-log of reserves to be tapped, so a visit at any point of the weekend should prove fruitful. See here for further elaboration.
  • By The Horns releases a Wimbledon one-off
    • During their Saturday open hours By The Horns will have a one-off blonde beer. Looks like the beer will pop up at selected pubs as well. More information here

Sunday 16 June 2013

Beer Tasting: Pressure Drop Pale Fire Nelson Sauvin & Mosaic

Tonight I tried my twelfth beer from Hackney-based brewery Pressure Drop and, I'm pleased to report, it's the best beer I've had from them yet. This year Pressure Drop has tackled an eclectic mix of beer styles, including a foraged herb hefeweizen, witbier, dunkelweiss, brown ale, porter and a range of pale ales. The majority of these beers have turned out well. The lone blemish was the Nanban S.P.A., a sweet potato ale that, after it stopped gushing from the bottle, had a messy character with notes of melon, bubblegum, citrus and rubber (not to mention a fleet of floating bits to rival the Spanish Armada). Aside from that unsuccessful experiment the beers have been good. Tonight's beer, though, is excellent - it's the Pale Fire Nelson Sauvin & Mosaic.

The two hops showcased in this beer could each serve as stand-alone hops but they also work quite well together. The beer pours mostly clear gold with a moderate, frothy white head. It has a gorgeous, enticing aroma, dripping with cat pee, mango, grapefruit and tangerine. The flavor is lightly sweet with an adequate pale malt base, above which the hops sing out: plenty of orange and lightly tangy tangerine, a bit of lemon and grapefruit, some lime and papaya, hints of hay. Light bodied with fine, massaging carbonation. Very faint hoppy resins to finish, lightly sweet, biscuity pale malts, light urine, pine needles and lots more fresh, zippy citrus fruits. Wonderful. Definitely one of Pressure Drop’s best beers yet. I look forward to tracking this brewery's progress going forward.

Beer Tasting: HOBO Beer Craft Czech Lager

I finally got around to trying the HOBO Beer Craft Czech Lager. The producer, HOBO Beer + Co., hails from East London and seems to be hanging its hat on this one beer. What is most distinctive about this beer is likely the can. Few UK brewers have taken to canning their beers, despite the myriad advantages of doing so (as enumerated by HOBO here). There's a certain stigma attached to canned beers, which is wholly unwarranted given the advantages, though understandable given the types of breweries that have offered canned beers over the last few decades. Thankfully, in recent years, a number well-respected breweries have started canning their beers, especially in the United States. Some breweries exclusively can, such as can pioneer Oskar Blues out of Colorado, while others can a few of their brands, such as Sierra Nevada and, as of very recently, Sam Adams.

It's easy to find canned beers on the shelves of UK supermarkets; unfortunately, the majority of these beers come macro breweries (the likes of Stella, Carling, Carlsberg, et al) and only a small minority come from what might be considered craft brewers, among them Fuller's and BrewDog. HOBO, to the best of my knowledge, is the second brewery in London (after Fuller's) to put out canned beers. It's nice to see. While I appreciate the high-brow aesthetic glass bottles allow, I'm also a big fan of the simplicity and economy of the can; indeed, I'm on record saying my favorite beer is Utica Club from the F.X. Matt Brewery (also known as Saranac), which comes predominately in can format and only rarely would one find it in bottle. (Incidentally, I prefer UC out of the can.)

And how does HOBO's lager stack up against its aluminum brethren? It's an easy-drinking warm weather beer. It pours clear, yellow-gold and effervescent, with a moderate, creamy white head. Grainy malts in the nose, some cereal, dry hay. Light to medium sweet flavor, some further husky cereal grains, light bitter hay, biscuits and dough, slight metallic bite. Light bodied with average carbonation. Pretty clean to finish, some sugary pale malts, lightly dirty hay bitterness, cereal, husky grains. It is a simple beer whose character is marked by sweet malts and cereal - it lacks the hoppy punch of a proper Czech pilsner. It would be a nice beer to drink when beer isn't the focus.

Sunday 9 June 2013

Beer Tasting: Camden Town Byron Pale Ale

On a recent visit to Camden Town Brewery I was happy to see that they were offering their Byron Pale Ale for sale. I've been to several Byron restaurants and have even enjoyed this beer before, but I don't typically take out pen and pad during a meal so I've never really put this beer through its paces, as it were. For those who don't know, Byron is a chain of burger restaurants with a high concentration of outposts in London and an ever-expanding universe outside of the Big Smoke. (For the record, Byron is, at present, my favorite burger house in London.) At some point Byron and Camden Town collaborated on a beer to offer at all the restaurants, and this beer is the result.

The beer pours crystal clear gold with a moderate, foamy white head. The nose gives off a decent bready malt punch, perhaps some lightly toasted bread, then behind that there are subtle citrusy hop notes. Light to medium sweet flavor with a prominent bready malt base, atop which an understated hop character adds enough character to keep the beer interesting. Some light dried pine, orange, grass. Light to medium bodied with average carbonation. Balanced finish, some dry and bready malts, slight minerals, delicate pine, grass and orange, some mild citrus rind bitterness. A pretty well-balanced APA. I would guess the restrained hop character is intentional, for in my opinion too strong a hop presence might not sit well with a burger. Having the breadiness out front is probably sage. This is a good, uncomplicated beer.

Beer Tasting: Partizan Saison Grisette Lemongrass Edition

My quality of life has improved dramatically since March of this year, mostly because that's when Partizan began their Saison Grisette series. I'm a huge fan of the saison style and, until this year, very few breweries in London had been attempting the style, let alone producing a good example of it. What has been especially exciting about Partizan's saisons is that brewer Andy Smith has been releasing a wide array of variations. His saisons range in ABV from around 4% all the way up to north of 7%, and include a variety of ingredient tweaks with regards to the hops, fruits, herbs and spices.

It could very well be my imagination, but I feel like these grisettes are getting better and better with each batch. The one in my glass tonight - the Lemongrass Edition - pours perfectly clear, lightly effervescent with a frothy, pure white head. The nose carries dry dough, some biscuity pale malts, lemony citrus. Light sweet flavor with the typical Partizan Grisette balance, mild straw, doughy pale malts, white bread, faint grassy bitterness, some lemon merengue. Light bodied with average to lively carbonation. Fairly sweet to finish with just a touch of dryness to even things out, with further white bread, angel food cake, light grass and straw bitterness and some further playful lemon merengue. An absolute delight.

Beer Tasting: The Five Points Brewing Co. Trial Brew Pale Ale Amarillo, Centennial, Citra

My most recent trip to Kris Wines yielded a good range of London beers, including one from new Hackney-based brewery The Five Points. I've now had several beers from this brewery and they've all been quite good; this one, though, was the first I've had out of the bottle.

The beer pours clearish, bright gold with a surprisingly staunch, pillowy white head. The aroma holds some inviting grapefruit notes, dried lemon peel, a bit of dry and biscuity pale malts. The flavor is clean, moderately sweet with some flinty minerals, bitter citrus rind, stones, sand, hay. Light bodied with fine to average carbonation. Clean and quite dry to finish, with some further grapefruit and lemon rind, a bit of grass and hay, minerals. A pretty good effort overall. If the minerality was toned down a bit and the grassy bitterness just a notch lower, the beer would be a stunner.