Spontanpeckham

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I decided that over the Easter bank holiday weekend I would try to attempt a spontaneously fermented beer. The temperatures were cool, the cherry blossom was just starting to shed its pink blanket over my garden and I had a four day weekend to play with.

I went with a simple 30% wheat to 70% pilsner malt bill but then decided to add in (around 3%) acidulated malt to try to deter mould and e-coli growth. I got hold of some 2011 Hallertau hops, I added around 60g of these to the boil at 60 mins.  These stank so bad, they were delivered to work and my desk, a week on, still smells faintly of hamster cage.  I would have liked to have gone with the romanticism and tradition of a turbid mash but I do not have the time, patience of equipment quite frankly.  I went instead with a 90 minute mash at 69oC and a 2 hour boil.  I started quite late in the day in order to leave my wort to cool overnight.

I transferred my wort into two 5 litre stainless steel cooking pots and tied cheesecloth over the top to stop any insects from getting in.  I left these under the trees in my garden overnight (1 cherry blossom and 2 sycamores). The colour in the morning was alarming, it’s amazing what oxidation can do.  It’s now bright orange.

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I moved the wort to two glass demi-johns and left them.  Well, when I say I left them, I actually checked them an unnecessary amount of times for signs of fermentation.  A watched demi-john never ferments.

I did the brew on Monday and it wasn’t until Friday morning that there were visible bubbles on the surface.  The water in the airlock had started to move a bit on Wednesday but Friday was when I could actually see the wort change.  It fascinates me how quickly this change happens. In the space of 2 hours the whole surface was covered in a white blanket of bubbles. Today is Monday and the bubbles are just started to sink, what will happen next?

I’m going to leave this for at least a year.  I’ll check on it from time to time to see if it needs ditching, I’m not expecting much, it’s more just for my own interest of witnessing a spontaneous fermentation in action.

UPDATE

A week after writing this blog stuff started to happen in the demi-john, a pellicle started to form and it is now full of massive bubbles.

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Saison Apothicaire

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Cast your mind back many months, you may remember I got a 10l herb liqueur barrel.  Well, I’ve finally used the damn thing.

It’s been sitting in my kitchen with holding solution inside it just waiting for some beer. Holding solution by the way is 1.5tsp potassium metabisulfite and 1/2 tsp citric acid per gallon.  I think a lot of people don’t realise how important it is to not let your barrel get dry or to not leave it sitting around acquiring mould. You should change the holding solution every few months if not in use.

I’m a huge fan of brewing saisons.  It is probably the style I have brewed the most.  I wanted to run a saison through the barrel for the first fill.  I have some nelson hops in the freezer and feel they may marry well with the herbaceous flavours in the barrel along with the earthy, spicy characteristics of the saison yeast (in this case Belgian Saison I).

20 litre batch

5,000g Pilsner
230g Wheat
230g Vienna
230g Aromatic
115g Munich
20g Nelson 15 mins
20g Nelson 10 mins

OG for this was 1.060 and it finished up at 1.010

This yeast, as always, got down to 1.020 then did nothing for a week until one day I was sat eating my breakfast and the airlock suddenly blew off and whacked me on the head. Hooray it had started again, a week later it was ready.  I transferred 10 litres to my barrel and 5 litres to a demi john which I dry hopped with a bit more nelson.  After a week I blended both of these and transferred them to a corny keg.  I only left it in the barrel for a week as I was worried that the barrel would rub off too much on the beer due to the large surface area that was in contact with the beer.

This was going to be the first beer I force carbed in a keg and bottled using a Blichmann Beer Gun.  Big thanks to Pete for helping me out with how it all works. We of course were missing a small connector so couldn’t bottle the beer as planned so I managed to drink 3 litres of it from the keg in a week.  The part arrived and I used the gun, which is a bloody dream! It was so quick, however I must have fucked something up somewhere as the carbonation has dropped somewhat in the bottle. Top tip for bottling with the beer gun, ensure everything involved is in the fridge and chilled beforehand otherwise you’ll be trying to bottle foam.

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The taste of this beer though is fascinating, it’s herby and citric and very refreshing. It’s initially like a standard saison but then you get this almost Nordic herb liqueur twang followed by a big lemon drop.  Very happy with this, just need to get the beer gun down for next time.

 

Tryanuary tales

It was New Year’s Eve (my birthday) and as I was making my way through the 5 10%+ beers the Buxton Tap House had on that night the other half made a suggestion. “Why don’t you only drink beer 6% or below in January as your Tryanuary challenge?”  Through the fog of imperial stouts I agreed and drank a farewell Tsar Bomba.

Tryanuary is a great concept, a big fuck you to the deluded dry crowd who think they are somehow healing themselves and gaining some sort of smug enlightenment by not drinking for the whole of January.  It doesn’t help you, you go back to drinking how you usually do in February, and sometimes more to compensate. Just learn moderation and stop being so extreme you dicks.  Tryanuary is also about trying new things so for me this means a lot of pale ales.  I don’t usually drink pale ales that much, preferring dark beers or sours.   It’s also about visiting new places, extending your beer love money to new faces and generally supporting the beer industry.

I started on New Year’s Day in Buxton.  We visited some pubs we hadn’t been in and I drank a few beers which I usually avoid and describe as “old man beers”, mainly bitters and red ales.  Tribute Extra was one that stood out to me. I was quite taken aback by how much I liked it. I also had this in a great little micropub in Buxton called Ale Stop. They only have three taps but they are pretty good and have a fantastic bottle selection. They had beers from Torrside and Tempest on whilst we were there.

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Some examples of the beers that Ale Stop have had

Back in London I popped into Hop Burns & Black for drinks for a friend’s birthday, I searched the shelves for something under 6% I hadn’t had and came across Wild’s Epic Saison in the bin ends box.  It’s the last one so surely I need to rescue it!  And so I did and I was rewarded handsomely, how have I not had this before? I suppose it got overshadowed by Wild’s more exotic sounding offerings (winey beast, bibble, ninkasi, sleeping lemons etc). I will definitely be having this again, tryanuary success!

Going through my Untappd I can see I’ve had quite a lot of flavoured beers. Not sure if this is the in thing, I’ve seen all sorts of weird abominations (Jester King’s – Snorkel, an oyster mushroom and sea salt farmhouse sour) is this going to get a bit silly?

I’ve had To ol’s Releaf Me which is a refreshing blonde brewed with keffir lime leaves. Black Market’s Blackberry Berliner. Thornbridge’s Charlie Brown (Peanut butter Brown Ale) needed more peanut butter but their strawberry pale (I love you will you marry me) was spot on and reminiscent of Campinos.  My favourite was Lindeman’s Pecheresse at only 2.5% I could drink it all night. I have a major sweet tooth so this suited me down to the ground.

I’ve tried a few things I would definitely never go for. Such as Weird Beard’s Faithless Spreadsheet Ninja. I’m not a pilsner or a sorachi ace fan but, I have to hand it to them, this was fantastic. I have another bottle waiting in the fridge already.

But , as they say, you win some you lose some. I tried a can of Adnam’s Crystal Rye IPA after spotting it in Morrison’s and, although it was perfectly drinkable, me and crystal are just not going to ever get on.

I also picked up a Theakstons Distillers Cask which reminded me of Innis & Gunn but without the sweet sickly taste. For 79p it was worth it and I’m sure it would go lovely in a cake.

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Beer of Tryuanuary for me though is Mad Hatter’s Brunch Club.  It’s a pale ale at 5.4% but the flavour hit is ridiculous.  The word juicy banger gets banded around a lot but this certainly deserves it. I just need somewhere local to stock it now. It’s borderline whether I prefer this over Magic Rock’s Cannonball. Shock, horror.

                                           
I’ve not done too well on the visiting new places front mainly due to moving house halfway through.  My new location is Peckham and I’ve not been to The Hope before so I popped in there for a Sunday roast and a pint of Brick’s Peckham Rye. They have a great selection of beers on cask, keg and in bottle. The Sunday roast was fantastic with a choice of beef, pork, lamb, duck, chicken or a veggie.

I also managed to pop into The Beer Shop in Nunhead for a bottle of Cloudwater Ardbeg. I didn’t get to sit in and drink but I’ll be returning on Friday.

I also went along to The Bottle Shop for the Crafty Beer Girls monthly meet up. There were 17 of us when I left, a great turn out and fun to drink and chat beer with girls for a change. Plus the cakes provided were scrumptious. If you are a woman who works in beer in London get yourself along. They have a Twitter and a Facebook group you can join.

My challenge was all going well until 23 January.  For this was the day I was reunited with my one true beer love, Noa Pecan Mud Cake.  The Bottle Shop thwarted my challenge by having it on tap but the other half said I’d done well and that if I was going to fail it should be on my favourite beer.  So fail I did and it was a glorious failure as it was the barrel aged version!

Tryanuary has taught me a few things. I’ve learnt to like lighter beers, I’ve learnt to pair them with food.  I’ve also learnt that a good bitter can be a great warming friend on a cold day.

Next year when you’re feeling guilty about all the food and drink you’ve had just sit and think about all the food and drink you haven’t had.  Get out there and get trying. You might like what you find.

Happy Ølekalender

Advent

It’s the 1st of December which means I can finally start unwrapping my advent calendar beers from To Øl. Hooray.

I was thinking about putting one together myself this year until To Øl stuck one on their webshop, I believe I was the first to order it (to be honest I was checking the website quite regularly for it to appear). They arrived all wrapped up in tissue paper so I couldn’t see what they were and even though I am incredibly impatient and have for the last 2 weeks contemplated peeking at them I have been very good and left them alone.

This has made Christmas exciting again, I’ve always found it to be a bit of a let down as an adult. I think making my own would have no anticipation or excitement when I come to open it every day so I’m pleased I took the plunge and bought one. The plan is to unwrap the bottle each morning, stick it in the fridge and then it’ll be ready to drink when I get home from work and I can dream about it all day.

I’m going to update this blog every day with information and my reaction to the beers I get behind every number.

On the first day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

… one bottle of Sun Dancer

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It’s a low ABV to kick off with which is handy as the average ABV in my fridge had reached a terrifying 10%.  It’s got a floral nose and a bitter sweet crisp finish, I imagine this would be lovelier in the sunshine but it is going well with my curry.

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On the second day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

……a bottle of Hop Love Pils

Another summery beer. I think To Øl might be doing us a favour here by not giving us Christmas beer fatigue too early. This is a pilsner hopped with mosaic and simcoe I think and is part of their sessions range. Hopefully we’ll get some dark christmassy beers soon and a few more of the sessions range will pop up to break down the heavyness.

It pours Amber and is well carbonated. Taste is peachy and long lasting. Nice and crisp and easily drinkable, going very nicely with, you guessed it, leftover curry from last night. Shame I only have one as it is moorish. Guess I’ll have to dip into the 10% fridge of doom.

On the third day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

….. A bottle of Eurodancer
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Upon opening this I started throwing some shapes in my living room pretending I was in a club in Berlin dancing to cheesey eurobeat. After reading the blurb on their website it appears that was the right reaction.

The other reaction I had was to have the words “hold me closer Eurodancer” in my head all day. If I could hold this beer closer all night I would, it’s a fantastic American Pale Ale exploding with centennial, galaxy, simcoe and citra hops. It tastes of orange, peach but with a honey/biscuit finish which may be from the melanoidin malt. The initial taste reminds me of Magic Rock’s Cannonball. It’s the stronger sequel to Summer dancer at 6.5%. Thoroughly enjoying this one. The balance of flavours is spot on.

Would go well with The Macarena after a few.

On the fourth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

….. A bottle of Nelson Survin

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It’s Friday and I have a feeling To Øl had worked that out when compiling this advent calendar as they’ve given us a 9% Sour Nelson Sauvin DIPA to celebrate with. Wallop, ‘ave that sunshine!

I love nelson and I love sours and I love DIPA’s so I guess I’m going to really love this.  I’m a big fan of their Sur Citra so hoping this is along the same lines (and hoping for a Sur Citra at some point). I’m out tonight celebrating workmates’ professional exam passes so will try to get home at a reasonable time and in a reasonable state to enjoy this to the max.  Should have bought it with me really!

I’ve been reading descriptions of this beer all day and it sounds like a proper banger.  Tart, tangy, mango, pineapple, passionfruit, lemon, juicy and boozy have all been used.  I’m at danger of disappointing myself by getting too hyped about this beer before I drink it but i’m sure it won’t let me down.

Will be back later to let you know if it has lived up to my hype.

Update

I’m back after only having one pint due to the fact I’ve become one of those twats that doesn’t see the point in drinking something unless I’m enjoying the taste of it.

I can safely say I am enjoying the taste of tonight’s calendar beer. It’s malty then tart and then the Nelson hop’s grape notes shine through. There’s also a little tickle of pineapple at the end. Very impressed with all the beers so far.

On the fifth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

… ONE LIQUID CONFIDENTIAAAAAL

Wish it was five. I was predicting this beer as the fifth one last night. The ABV has been rising (this is 12.2%) and the bottle was slightly bigger than usual. Just call me mystic meg.
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Liquid confidential is a big imperial stout made with ancho, guajillo and chipotle chillies which gives it a light smokey undertone and not the harsh holy shit my mouth is on fire feeling you get with most chilli beers . It is then aged in rum barrels which adds a spiced boozy note to the beer which is initially liquorice in quality. It’s ideal for warming you up whilst Storm Desmond rages on outside. It feels very grown up but still a bit of a dude.

Goes well with The Big Lebowski

I sense a pattern here. Predicting the ABV to plummet tomorrow and to slowly rise again until beer 11 as its also slightly bigger.

on the sixth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

…. A bottle of frost bite
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We are a quarter of the way through and we get our first Christmas themed beer, a 6% pale ale brewed with orange peel and pine needles. I think it’s more of an IPA myself. It’s incredibly marmaladey and has a very bitter pine finish. Would go well with an armchair after you’ve lugged home the Christmas tree.

I personally don’t lug home a real tree as I can’t imagine why you’d get a real one when you can get a fake one that means you don’t have to deal with the shedding crap everyday. Plus I hate the smell of pine. This beer smells a bit like one of those car air fresheners but the orange peel is saving the taste.

On the seventh day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

…. A bottle of Maj Pilsner
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This is a pilsner hopped with Tettnanger, Mosaic and Amarillo. It is at first citrussy but this quickly makes way for a peppery finish. It’s light and refreshing but feels thicker in your mouth to normal pilsners and I don’t think it will last in my glass for long. Would go well with a pad thai or some fat salty chips fresh from the chippy down the road. Mmmm chips.

On the eighth and ninth days of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Fuck Art this is Architecture and a Sofa King Pale

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I’m double parked tonight as I had my office Christmas do last night. Cheeky names aside these are both solid offerings and also at 5% and 4.7% respectively they are not a bad pair to be double parked on.

The first is a Belgian bretted table beer. You can smell the trademark farmyard whiff of the Brett a mile off and the taste is heavy on the horseblanket. Luckily I happen to like Brett. For those not in the know. Brett (Brettanomyces) is a strain of wild yeast which can be introduced to a beer to give it “funky” flavours although sometimes it gets in by accident and seen as a defect. This has a great musty Brett hit but also a slight banana hint at the end. It’s not going to be for everyone but I like it. I imagine it’d be nice with some brie.

The second is from their already mentioned sessions range. It’s a pale ale hopped with tettnanger, simcoe and citra. It’s large on the pine notes but with blood orange and pineapple thrown in. It’s very easy to drink which is its main aim really. Goes well with your sofa and some sport on the tv.

On the tenth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

… A bottle of snowball saison

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This is very crisp and refreshing and as the bottle states you can drink it whilst you wait for summer to come. It’s peppery from the saison yeast but there’s no Brett coming through which is probably because this bottle is too young for it to develop. Buy one and leave it for a while to funk up. I’ve absolutely demolished my bottle and just read it’s 8%, dangerously easy to drink this one.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

Another bottle of Liquid Confidence

Hooray. I think this one is the non-barrel aged version. I am out tonight saying farewell to a couple who are off out of this country on adventures (good luck Dan and Catriona) so won’t be drinking the advent beer tonight. Unless I fancy it when I get in which is quite likely as that 12.2% shitbag will be whispering and winking at me the filthy tease. So might be here later with sensational, garbled tasting notes, might not.

I was too tired to drink the Liquid Confidence and will fit it in tomorrow somehow.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

…a bottle of Sur Simcoe
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I’m excited about this as I bloody loved Sur Citra, their single hopped sour. It’s defo up there as one of my highest rated beers of the year. This is nice but not quite got the edge of Citra. Commendable but just not quite as good.

On the thirteenth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Reparationsbajeren

We are halfway through and after a day of Christmas pub crawling yesterday this is the perfect beer to get in the calendar. It’s a pale ale with punchy American and NZ hops designed as a recovery beer. It’s easy going and although I don’t get hangovers, I’m thankful it’s not a rich, strong number as I’m getting a bit of beer fatigue. Much better than any recovery green smoothie bullshit.

On the fourteenth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

… A bottle of Sur Yule
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I’m dreaming of a sour Christmas. Yum. Another great alternative to the traditional overspiced Christmas beers. A lovely tart cherry sour with a light sherbert like feel. Goes well with wrapping presents.

On the fifthteenth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

…a bottle of Markedspils

Was a bit disappointed when I opened this one. It’s very similar to the two pilsners I’ve already had. Hop profile is slightly different as the tettnanger is coming through more but this coupled with a stressful day means I’m very unenthused. It’s an alright beer, could just do with something more exciting today.

On the sixteenth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Music Non Stop Techno Pop
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I’m in a funny mood this evening. I may, possibly, be exchanging on a house I m buying tomorrow so I’m really happy but also on the edge of my seat expecting some stupid shit to go down and for it all to go to pot. A bit similar to how I feel about this beer. Initially the taste is lovely, citrus, pineapple and marmalade but then I get a horrible mango aftertaste which I don’t like and it’s yet another pilsner which I’m guessing contains mosaic. I need some variety! Still it’s named after a Kraftwerk song so swings and roundabouts.

On the seventeenth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Cloud 9 Wit

We’ve exchanged, hooray. Let’s celebrate with a light, refreshing wit beer brewed with mango and orange peel. Lovely stuff and went really well with my fish dinner.

On the eighteenth and nineteenth days of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Jule Maelk and a bottle of Hardcore Maelk

Both of these sound amazing. The first is a heavely lactosed Christmas milk stout and the second is a black milk IPA collab with Brewdog aged in scotch barrels. Sadly I cannot drink either of these due to the lactose so in the spirit of Christmas I have given them to my lovely friend Emmy who is the biggest milk stout fan I know. I treated myself to a Double Axe from Buxton instead.

On the twentieth day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Mikropolis
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This was brewed to be a house pilsner for a cocktail bar and uses Curacao Orange peel to keep with the cocktail bar theme. It has a lovely orange hit at first followed by a bitter citrus hop finish. I like it a lot.

on the twenty first day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A Mocchacino Messiah

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I can’t drink this due to the dreaded lactose again but the other half relished the chance. He said it was very roasty, smooth but not overly bitter. It really smells of coffee and he is very much enjoying it. I treated myself to a Vocation Naughty and Nice instead.

on the twenty second day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Stalin’s Organ

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This is a California Common, it’s a lot hoppier than usual and has an undercurrent of smoke on the finish. Not sure I could drink too many of them but it is interesting.

on the twenty third day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of LikeWeisse

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I’ve had this beer before and couldn’t believe how much flavour it had for a 3.8%. It’s definitely one that can be enjoyed all day long. It’s incredibly juicy with grapefruit and lime bit not too sour with a slight breadyness. Lovely one to start off my Christmas drinking with.

On the twenty fourth vand final day of Christmas my To Øl Ølekalender gave to me…

A bottle of Shameless Santa

This is a big 750ml bottle of a 10% Belgian red ale. I’m going to put it away and have it as my Christmas dinner beer next year.

Looking back this advent calendar has been pretty good quality. Had a few missed bottles due to my lactose intolerance and maybe a few too many pilsners for my liking but other than that it’s been great. Would definitely recommend this if they sell it again next year.

Supermarket beers – Lidl

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Yes, I’ve finally decided to review some more supermarket beers.  I’m a bit late to the game as Lidl launched their “The Brewery” range back in June and I’ve been meaning to check it out ever since.  I popped over to the Lidl on Old Kent Road and was a bit disappointed by the lack of variety.  It was all mainly English style ambers.  I’m also a bit confused by Lidl’s regional selling.  They have a map on their website which shows you which beers will be selling in which area.  On it you can see that Shepherd Neame from Kent are on sale in Scotland.  I thought they were going for locally sourced beers?

Anyways after mulling over the choice I went for 3.  Hatherwood’s Ruby Rooster, Portobello’s Star and Blanche de Namur witbier.  They had a Czech black lager advertised but none left so either Lidl are shit at stocking their shelves or it’s so good/cheap that every man and his dog in Elephant & Castle are off their tits on it.  It’s a shame as I recently tried Budvar’s Black Lager blind and bloody loved it. Would have been good to see how Lidl’s version compared.

So to the beers

Hatherwood Ruby Rooster 3.8% 90p

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Now I picked this up 1. because of the cost, look at it! It’s bloomin’ 90p and 2. as it’s not usually my cup of tea.  I’m not a fan of English ruby/amber/bitter styles but this doesn’t mean they are bad.  There are hundreds of beer styles out there and not all of them are going to be for you.  I decided this will help me judge a beer objectively.  Surprisingly this is actually alright.  It’s a deep cherry red colour with  toffee on the nose.  The hops (Fuggles, Golding, Cascade and Styrian) are not overpowering and it is very very well balanced against the chocolate malt used within it.

There is a slight syrupy sweet flavour which I assume is from the crystal malt. It says on the bottle it is brewed using Burton water but it is missing the sulphury classic Burton taste. There’s dark bramble berries and a light bitter finish.  Very easy drinking and for 90p this is surprisingly a lot nicer than I expected.  My only gripe is that this is another brewery masquerading under this “craft beer” moniker.  It’s signed by Jeff  Drew who I believe is the head brewer at Wychwood.

Portobello Star Amber Ale – 4.3% £1.49

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This has a good head and a crystal clear copper colour.  There’s deep toffee and heavy malt flavours that give way to floral and then a bitter noble hop finish. It’s very pleasant, nothing extraordinary.  Just a good standard beer.

Blanche de Namur Witbeir – 4.5% £1.39

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This has a gold label on the bottle showing they won the World’s Best Wheat Beer at the World Beer Awards, albeit in 2009.  I’ve seen this on sale in Waitrose before, FYI it’s £1.79 in there!

This is a good standard Wit. It smells classically like a wit and tastes classically like a wit with orange and coriander.  There’s also some good breadyness and a clean finish. It’s cloudy and has a paper white head. Again a nice beer but nothing out of this world.

So my conclusion is that Lidl have some solid beers.  There’s nothing to rave about but these are great for a light sit on the sofa tipple. Sometimes you just want something a bit inoffensive and standard.

Skal! The Icelandic beer scene

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I’ve been to Iceland a few times now (2006, 2007 and 2010).  Back in 2010 the only beer I recollect being widely available was Viking which is their standard big brand lager, it’s mild and crisp – pretty good to enjoy after mowing the lawn on a hot day.  It’s perfectly ok but boring after a few days.  So I was delighted when I went last week to find Iceland has gone beer mad.  There are now five microbreweries in the country and four craft beer bars in Reykjavik alone. Which, if you’ve ever been there, is a good amount for how small a place it is.

Iceland has a funny relationship with beer.  It was only legalised in 1989 having been banned in 1915 during prohibition (even though hard liquor had been legalised in 1933).  They thought that as it was cheap the poor and children would drink it.  I went on a tour called taste the saga where Iceland’s history with alcohol is explained in the Olgerdin Brewery (plus you get to drink a lot of beer).  I highly recommend this, Sylvia the guide is hilarious.  You can book the tour here

The tour is held in the tasting room of the Olgerdin Brewery. They are the oldest brewers in Iceland, they also produce soft drinks and Brennivin.  It’s a huge place.

Borg beer range
Borg beer range
Brew kit
Brew kit

Also based in Olgerdin is Borg, their smaller craft brewery.  I fell in love with Borg’s beer whilst I was there. Their beers are numbered from 1 to 33.  Number 1 being Brio, an award winning lager named after a customers friend who passed away.  It has a picture of him on the label. I sampled many of their beers out there including Snorri which is number 10, it’s a beer brewed with arctic thyme, it’s incredibly beautiful and the thyme is not too overpowering.  I also had Number 30 which is Surtur, a smoked Russian Imperial Stout.  This was probably my favourite beer of the whole trip.  It was so rich, strong coffee but intensely smokey. I found out after the malt is smoked over sheep poo!  Other notable mentions are the Freki Brett and Solvieg, great summer beers.

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Reykjavik’s craft beer bars

As I mentioned before, Reykjavik now has four craft beer bars.  They are Skuli, Microbar, Kaldi and Mikeller & Friends.

Skuli Craft

Skuli are great, we went here the most.  The space is nice and they have an outdoor courtyard. They have mainly Icelandic on tap but also have the odd Mikeller or To Ol.  They have a vast bottle range including Prairie, Brewdog, Cantillon, Nogne, Logsdon, Founders, Omnipollo, De Molen, Rodenbach and Westveleteren 12 for £25 a bottle. They do a deal on a tasting flight which is pretty good.  We had Borg Solvieg, Borg Nordic Saison, Borg Mykvi Porter, Mikeller Mosiac, To Ol Reperations and Mikeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel (bloody lush btw).

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Microbar

Microbar is hidden in a hotel so it’s not immediately obvious it’s there. The atmosphere is not as good and unfortunately not all the taps were on. They had Icelandic beers on tap, we sampled a few including Olvisholt’s Lava which is a smoked Imperial Stout inspired by the views of Hekla from the brewery.

Kaldi Bar

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Kaldi is the bar from the Bruggsmidjan Brewery who are based in the North. It was opened by a couple in 2005.  Their beer is called Kaldi. The bar is pretty cool and has a sunny outdoor garden.  They often have a couple of things on happy hour deals which is great in Iceland as it can get expensive. They produce a small range of beers Kaldi which is a Czech style Pilsner, Kaldi Dark which I think was a dunkel and a beer called Gulfoss which I didn’t get to have.  The bar often has experiments on tap, I had a porter whilst I was there.  You can visit the brewery by appointment, unfortunately we just didn’t have time.

Mikeller and Friends

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This place is awesome.  It has 20 taps mostly of Mikeller but with the odd To Ol thrown in. They sell beer in 200ml or 400ml servings. To see what they have on tap go here http://mikkeller.dk/mikkeller-friends-reykjavik/ I had the Spontan Framboise which was mega funky and delicious. I also had To Ol’s Dangerously Close to Stupid which was smooth and quite well balanced for a Double IPA.  I also had the Berliner Weisse and To Ol’s Like Weisse on separate visits. They also play some pretty good tunes in here.

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Also in Reykjavik you’ll find that even the sports bars and English style pubs have the craft beers on draft and in bottles.  Brio, Borg’s lager is often on draft under a happy hour offer.

Outside of Reykjavik I was amazed to find most of the restaurants and guesthouses along the ring road have beers from the breweries.  They do like to show off their local produce in Iceland.  At Jokulsarlon I had a Vatnajokull beer by Olvisholt who are based in Selfoss in the south.  It’s made using the glacier water and artic thyme. I also managed to have their farmhouse ale Skadi in a cafe in Skogar and I drank their Saison Sif in a hot tub in Akureyri.  I highly recommend beer accompanied hot tub adventures.

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We travelled north for part of our trip.  Kaldi and Einstok are located in the northern part of the country.  You can visit Kaldi as mentioned above however Einstok are not taking visitors yet although most of Akureyri smells of hops due to them and Viking. Einstok have a White Ale, a Pale Ale, a Toasted Porter and an Arctic Berry beer which we couldn’t find anywhere.  You’ll get the full range of all of the breweries beers in Vinbudin, the government run off licenses.  Please check online for opening hours as in some places these are very limited.

My tip would be to wait until you get to the airport to buy beers.  The duty free shop has Borg’s Solveig and Ulfur, Kaldi, Olgerdin, Ovisholt and all of the Einstoks in six packs.  There is a small food shop opposite where you can buy a bigger range from all in single bottles.

The other South East London beer crawl

I currently help behind the bar on Saturdays at Anspach & Hobday on the Bermondsey Beer Mile (pop in and say hi) which is now a very popular must do beer crawl. But what about other breweries and craft bars in South East London? Last Saturday I had a day off from working in the brewery bar tap to go and, well, visit other breweries bar taps. Is it possible to devise another beer crawl? The answer is yes.  I had a look on the map and sorted a route.

You can find the route here: Rad beer map

We would start at Hop Burns & Black just off Rye Lane in Peckham then onwards to Brick Brewery a little further north off Rye Lane.  Next stop would be Beer Rebellion on Queens Road then a trip over to Loughborough Junction to The Beer Hive. The penultimate stop would be Brixton Brewery and finally Stormbird in Camberwell as that brings us nicely to near home.  We also planned some much needed food stops.

We decided to ride our bikes in between each stop as the distances are not too far (I think it’s 6.5 miles in total).  We were not wobbly as we had a half in each stop from 11am – 7pm so 3 pints over 8 hours, hardly hardcore drinking. If you don’t want to do it on bikes there is an option to do it partially on foot and bus which I will give details for.

I met my friends by the butterfly mural on Wells Way and headed off through the Surrey Canal path to Peckham Rye.

First stop – Hop Burns & Black, East Dulwich Road next to Balfes

Decisions, decisions
Decisions, decisions

This shop is pretty much a genius concept.  It sells Beer, hot sauce and vinyl. All they need to do is add tea and chocolate to the mix and my essential needs are catered for.  The beer selection in here is wide, stocking beers from all over the world and also having a great sour selection.  It’s pretty much become my new go to bottle shop.  They have some beers in the fridge and also sell growlers on tap and have a bin ends box which today contained a Wild Beer Wineybeast which I sadly left behind.  We plunged for a Beatnik from Gipsy Hill as it has a low ABV of just 3.8% and well today is all about pacing yourself and not being a drunken dick on a bike.  Plus I’ve not actually got around to trying any of Gipsy Hill’s beers yet.  This was impressively malty and flavourful for such a low ABV.  My friends went for an addition of a scotch egg (which comes accompanied by homemade hot sauce) whilst the other half bought some psychotic looking hot sauce for his dad for father’s day.

Gipsy Hill - Beatnik
Gipsy Hill – Beatnik

After a lovely beer outside in the sun we headed off north to Brick. This is walkable.

Stop two – Brick Brewery, Blenheim Grove

Blenheim Black IPAs
Blenheim Black IPAs

I’ve never been here before, the space outside is great (especially today as the sun is shining).  They had a good selection at the bar, I have only ever seen their Pils and Archway Steam in other places I have been to so was good to get to try others.  They always have a pop up food stall at hand which today was provided by Streetfish and we, conveniently, got here at lunchtime.  I had a Blenheim Black IPA and a steak, lobster, cheese and bacon burger with sweet chili sauce. Yes, you did just read that correctly.  Drool. The table we sat at had been reserved from 3pm so you can do reservations by the looks of it which is handy.

Epic burger action
Epic burger action

After shoving amazingly tasty animals in our gobs we headed back up Rye Lane and along Queens Road to Beer Rebellion.  Get the P12 bus from Rye Lane and get off at Carlton Grove.

Stop Three – Beer Rebellion, Queens Road

Beer board
Beer board

Another place I’ve not yet ventured to. The beer selection in here is impressive and they have their own in house brewery called Late Knights based in Penge.  The Bar staff here are incredibly helpful and knowledgeable.  I had a Late Knights Porter which was incredibly roasty.  Beer Rebllion run quiz nights on Mondays and they have a sister bar in Gipsy Hill.

We left here and embarked on the longest bit of our journey to Loughborough Junction.  Walk 5 mins to Peckham bus station and get on a 345, get off at Loughborough Junction Station.

Stop Four – The Beer Hive, Belinda Road

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The Beer Hive is relatively new.  It is a co-operative brewery between Clarkshaw’s and the London Beer Lab.  I have been to the London Beer Lab’s base in Brixton before to do a brew day with Bruno (great fun btw) and also to pick up some homebrew supplies.  It’s great to see them get a bar tap.  The bar tap is on an industrial estate and it may seem like you are in the wrong place but there is a very hopeful “craft beer this way” sign, just keep going and you’ll get there.  The lady who served us was very friendly, we tried all of the beers on tap (the Phoenix rising red was particularly nice).  I went for a Clarkshaw’s Hellhound, an English style IPA.  My friends went for a Beer Lab Columbus APA which was delicious and a smoked chilli lager which smelt all kinds of wrong but was actually pretty decent (I assume this has come from the crazy mind of Bruno the head brewer at the Beer Lab.  I made a speculoos beer on my brew day with him) and the other half had a Clarkshaws Gorgon’s Alive which was a nice refreshing golden summer ale (with a great medusa label). We plonked ourselves down in the comfy car seats and remarked on the fact that there is now something in Loughborough Junction other than the railway junction.

We headed off to Brixton (this is walkable)

Stop Five – Brixton Brewery, Brixton Station Road

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Brixton Brewery are based in a small railway arch on Brixton Station Road just off Gresham Road (look for the friendly street cat outside with the massive knackers).  They have two beers on draft and seven different beers in bottles.  I had a Lupulo Pale Ale which was lovely and fruity whilst my friend went for their collaboration with Volcano Coffee Works, Lavarush Coffee Stout, which has been successful in tasting like coffee with a velvety mouthfeel.

From here I had already planned a crucial cupcake stop at the vegan Ms Cupcakes on Coldharbour Lane.  I am lactose intolerant so this shop is a godsend and when I lived in Herne Hill I came here pretty much every weekend for an Ambassador (a cupcake which tastes like a ferero rocher). Today I decided it was time to try something else so had a pina colada which was delicious but I’ll be definitely going back to the Ambassador.  Other half had an amazingly large pecan and salted caramel cookie sandwich.  We also stopped for Mexican take out at Casa Morita in Market Row having the three tacos and salad meal with refried beans.  I took the opportunity to pop into Market Row Wines (another place I used to frequent when I lived in Herne Hill).  They have a small but very good beer selection in here including Burning Sky’s Vatted Porter. They also, obviously, have an amazing wine selection.

My friend needed to go to the Beer Lab for some home brew supplies so we wandered over.  They also sell bottles in the Beer Lab and I couldn’t resist the coconut porter and a few days later it met all of my expectations of being like liquid bounty.

Homebrew supplies, takeaway Mexican and cupcakes bagged we headed to the last stop (sadly in the rain, fuck you clouds)

You can avoid the clouds by getting the 345 back towards Peckham and getting off at Camberwell Church Sttreet/Camberwell Green

Stop Six – Stormbird, Camberwell Church Street

Stormbird is in Camberwell and I have been in a few times.  They always have a great selection on tap and also, cleverly, have their bottles in neatly labelled sections in the fridge. I had a To Ol Garden of Eden which, by far, is the fruitiest beer I have had all year.  It is conditioned on guava, mango, passion fruit, apricot and papaya. It was like drinking an alcoholic Rubicon.  Stormbird are also great as they allow you to eat takeaway food inside, so we tucked in to our Mexican/cupcake feast and reminisced on what a great day it had been.  As we were close to home we decided to have just one more beer.  I went for a Mikkeller It’s Alive (a wild Belgian beer) which tasted like soaked Christmassy raisins mm mm.

I’d recommend this route as it was relatively quiet compared to the Bermondsey Beer Mile.  If you have your hill legs an idea could be to go from Loughborough Junction to Brixton and then include popping to Canopy in Herne Hill and then onto Gipsy Hill Brewing and Beer Rebellion’s Gipsy Hill branch.  We were going to include Orbit in Walworth on our route but they were closed as they were at a beer festival.  I’d recommend Orbit (who also have a food stall), they are lovely guys and the Ivo is tasty, go chat to them.

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