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Tyson is an underpaid writer, beer anarchist and cheese addict living in the North West of England.
If the people are buying tears, I'll be rich someday, Ma

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Walking The Bermondsey Beer Mile

The Bermondsey Beer Mile has quickly established itself as something of a cultural phenomenon in London. For those not in the know, this is basically a crawl of the six breweries located within a mile of each other in Bermondsey. Except, just as locally the Rammy Mile run was never exactly a mile, this one is that bit longer as well. But no matter; it’s not been going long but it is already drawing in crowds of hipsters, stag parties etc; a la Borough crawl. Now having been to some, but not all, of the breweries, it didn’t take much for me to agree to lead a raiding party there.

It really doesn’t matter which end of the crawl you start from, but I would suggest Fourpure at South Bermondsey first. The Northern Line will take you to London Bridge where you can swap to the overground service for a train to South Bermondsey. While you’re waiting you can admire a very close up view of the Shard. The journey only takes 5 minutes but you may wish to check if the mighty Millwall are at home. Otherwise you may be somewhat baffled by the police presence that awaits you and the incomprehensible chantings of the locals.

Walk out of the station into Rotherhithe New Road and turn right. It’s only a very short walk before you’ll see an industrial estate. Turn right into this and then follow the road to the left until you pass under the railway bridge. Fourpure is just ahead of you at unit 22. And a very nice setup it is, too. Bright, modern with a few tables and one long bar. It’s owned by two brothers: Dan and Tom, who work as part of a small team that includes John Driebergen as head brewer.

The clue’s all in the name with Fourpure: malt, hops, water and yeast. They don’t fine their beers and the beer range is chosen, I was told, on the simple basis of what beers they want to drink. There was a choice of seven beers, all marked up on a board that gave information such as strength (including OG), IBUs, EBC (that’s colour to you) and even the inspiration behind each beer. So we know that the Session IPA (4.2%) was inspired by bowler hats and New York cabbies. It certainly was tasty: crisp with a good floral hop kick to it.

Working your way round, you could have an Amber Ale, Pale Ale, IPA (tasty Oregon style, piney and resinous) Oatmeal Stout, Pils and an Imperial Pale. But at some point, you do have to leave. Retrace your steps towards the station and cross at the zebra crossing before turning right into Galleywall Road. Walk down here until you see the Ancient Foresters on the junction with Southwark Park Road. At the side of the pub, running the breadth of the railway arch is Almond Road where Partizan is to be found at Arch 8.
There have been a few grumbles of late about Partizan’s quality and certainly the Ahtanum and Centennial Pale Ale we had was less than gratifying. London murky you can deal with but when it’s agricultural and grainy with it, then you quickly move on. Heading for Kernel next, you go back to the Ancient Foresters and cross over to the shops opposite. Walk along these until you see Pyramid Pharmacy. Take the next right into St James’s Road and walk until you see the railway bridge in front of you. Ignore the road and take the pedestrian route by following the garages on the left until they bring you out directly opposite Kernel.
Not much to add that hasn’t been said before about Kernel except that they have tweaked the layout again. It was busy-as usual-but this tends to come in waves. Unfortunately one of the toilets was broken. A busted flush you might say. On the beer side; there were eight to choose from: ranging from the 2.5% London Sour, an oak aged Saison (blended with London Sour) to the 7.5% Export Stout. All served in 330ml pours. There is also a bottled beer list, but you are warned that these will be warm.
It’s only a hop and a skip to the next two breweries. Walk out of Kernel, keeping the railway to your right until you exit the yard. Turn right into the street and once more follow the railway arches as they take you into Enid Street where Brew By Numbers is at Arch 79. This has seen an upgrade since my last visit and has a small but good selection on draught and in bottle. Their new Session IPA (seems they are all the rage now) is a little 4.2% beauty. A refreshing blend of Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin lifts this into the moreish category.
It really is only a short walk (or stagger) to the last stop. Turn right out of BBN, again keeping the railway on your right and go under the railway bridge. Make an immediate left into Druid Street and you will find Anspach & Hobday on the left at Arch 118. Although sounding like a Dickensian firm of solicitors, they are actually Paul Anspach & Jack Hobday. They actually share premises with another brewery-Bullfinch-but they weren’t there on our visit. A&H were offering bottles for £3.50 or two draught beers for £3 each. Their IPA was served via a hop rocket or Randalizer to give it its technical name.
These Randalizers are becoming quite the thing over here but remain somewhat controversial. A hop back or hop rocket is a sealed chambers placed between the brewing kettle and the wort chiller. The idea is that containing the hops allows maximum retention of the volatile hop aromas that would normally disperse. A Randalizer works on the same principle but is placed between the keg and the tap. The beer then passes through the hops just prior to being poured and the alcohol strips the volatile compounds from the hop. But none of the compounds have time to disperse and therefore the beer is reinfused with all of the hoppy goodness. It certainly is interesting having the same beer infused with different hops. While we were there Columbus was replaced by Nelson Sauvin.
As a wind down after the crawl, you can pop back under the bridge and visit the excellent Maltby Street Market. However, if like us, visiting breweries makes you thirsty, a visit to a local hostelry may be in order. I’d recommend the nearby Dean Swift as a safe bet. Walk along Druid St until virtually the end and then follow the path through the housing estate onto Tooley St and then Lafone St. Walk down here until you see the Dean Swift facing you on the corner of Gainsford St. Here you can expect an interesting selection of craft beer and, perhaps, some well needed food.

The Bermondsey Beer Mile works either as a good crawl on its own or as a gateway to London’s other beery delights. The choice is yours.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Sierra Nevada@PSBH

Recently there was a rather special meet the brewer at Manchester’s very own Port Street Beer House. I say special as it was of a transatlantic nature as the brewery concerned was Sierra Nevada. Yes, that Sierra Nevada from the land of movie stars and swimming pools: California. The guest speaker was Steve Grossman who is their Beer Ambassador. I know, nice work if you can get it, eh?. Actually Steve has more than a passing knowledge of SD as his brother, Ken, is the co-founder. And via a slideshow presentation, he proceeded to share some of that knowledge.

What Steve did very well was to bring across the drive and innovation that drove Ken on and what makes Sierra Nevada the powerhouse it is today. Ken became interested in homebrewing at a very young age; even before he could legally consume it and eventually opened a homebrew shop in Chico, California in 1976. Interestingly this was before Jimmy Carter removed all restrictions on homebrewing in 1978 which is when things really took off. But back to those early days in Chico.
According to Steve, Chico was once voted by Playboy magazine as the no 1 party campus in America. Which may, or may not, explain why he and his brother chose it as their university. But it was the scenery, the climate and the people that made Ken stay. Fast forward to that successful homebrew shop and then, along with Paul Camusi, the founding of the modern brewery in the early 1980s. Equipment was sourced from redundant dairies and really was a case of make and mend. The first beer wasn’t as you might imagine their famous Pale Ale-that came after-but a Stout. The rest as they say is history.
Steve reeled off a series of impressive statistics that really made you realise just what a mammoth (to us Brits, anyway) operation SD run. They have 50 eight hundred barrel fermentors and grow barley over a 30 acre stretch. They also have their own hops-certified organic, naturally and the 15 varieties include Cascade, Chinook and Citra. They only use whole hops and consume a million pounds of grain a week. This grain is then recycled via their own cows. Recycling is a serious business for SD and they have something like a 99% rate. They produce 70% of their own electricity and run their trucks on bio-fuel. Even the cows end up on the plate to satisfy hungry diners!

Beers sampled
Sierra Nevada Pale
Pale Ale is still their biggest seller and accounts for 65% of sales. Steve recounted the amusing tale of how, in the early days, they sourced the Cascade hops for this from none other than the makers of Budweiser who, naturally, had no need for it.
Kellerweiss
A new, unfiltered, Hefeweizen style beer that is fermented in open tanks.

Belgian Style Black IPA
Uses, yes you guessed it, Belgian yeast
Torpedo
Uses their famous “Hop Torpedo”, a dry hopping device that controls how much hop aroma is imparted into the beer. Oh and 70 pounds of hops goes into it.
O’Brien’s 20th Anniversary Ale
This is a barrel-aged rye beer that, if I was paying attention, had Brewdog as the source of the barrels.

All the beers were good and tasted fresh. Perhaps not surprising as, due to an accident during haulage, they were forced to air freight new supplies in. Talking to Steve during one of the breaks, he reiterated what all the American brewers say: freshness is key. That’s why they’ve built a new brewery in North Carolina and hopefully we’ll see more of their specials over here. They are the biggest bottle-conditioning brewery in the world and they can-condition five of their beers that fly off their 950 cans a minute production line. No wonder beer writer Michael Jackson dubbed Sierra Nevada “the Chateau Latour of American breweries” (a reference to the French vineyard famous for the high quality of its grape varieties).

A very enjoyable and insightful evening and thanks to Steve and everyone concerned.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kona Pipeline Porter

It’s time for a quick trip across the Atlantic once again this morning. Kona are one of the American craft brewers that you can be fortunate enough to increasingly come across on this side of the pond either on draught or packaged in bottle or can. The brewery is located in Kaliua-Kona, Hawaii and was started by Cameron Healy and Spoon Khalsa in the spring of 1994. They are more known for their pale ales and IPAs over here, but this is a journey to the dark side with one of their seasonals.
It’s a 12oz bottle and is 5.3%. The not-so-secret ingredient here is the 100% Kona coffee grown at Cornwell Estate on Hawaii’s Big Island. It poured dark brown with a medium-sized tan head. The aroma was quite strong: roast malt, hazelnut, dark chocolate and yes, coffee. These flavours carry on into the taste and are joined by a faint smoky hue. The coffee starts to really build in the finish and leaves a roast coffee bean aftertaste.

Tyson says: This didn’t really float my canoe. It became too unbalanced too quickly and became too hard to drink.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Kernel London Brick Collaboration Red Rye Ale

Who can resist a red rye ale? Well me, for one. Obviously.  For, as we know, rye in beer usually spells trouble. It’s ruined many a good beer and, combined with the word “red”, conjures up an image of a caramel/toffee bomb with rye thrown in for good measure. But wait. This is from Kernel and contains Simcoe, Centennial and Cascade. Is there hope for it yet?
It’s a 330ml bottle-conditioned affair and weighs in at 6.8%. It poured ruby-red with good carbonation and a medium beige head. Murky London lovers please note; it’s not murky at all. What is the world coming to? There’s a very pungent aroma: a work of beauty is the only way to describe it. Punchy C hops giving mango, pineapple, grapefruit and a slight floral tang with a hint of sweet malt. Very, very appealing.
The taste didn’t disappoint either. This one comes at you fast and heavy. The initial flavour of liquorice, light spice and caramel is quickly blown away by a resinous C hop blast. Plenty of juicy citrus flavours here that build to a resounding bitter finish. The rye is confined to a very minor bread note. And although the alcohol does peek through, it’s always subdued by the hops.
Tyson says: Who’d thought it? Not only a drinkable rye beer, a very drinkable rye beer.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Local News Roundup

Tomorrow is the first day of spring and the spring beer festival season has begun. If one festival isn’t enough for you, you can try two local festivals this weekend. Up in Ramsbottom, the Hare & Hounds has started its 10 day festival. You can expect 24 beers on handpump and 3 ciders. Breweries featured range from the local: Ramsbottom Craft, the fairly local: Blackjack and the pretty far away: Shepherd Neame. An interesting feature is the use of beer miles. Customers collect tokens for every pint they drink and accumulate beer miles based on the brewery’s location.

750 beer miles buys you a free pint and 1500 will get you a tankard. The pub is easily accessible via the 472/474 bus and CAMRA members get a discount on their pint. Whilst in the area, why not pop along to the revamped Fusilier and try some of Allgates’ finest? Also easily accessible by public transport is the Prestwich Beer Festival. Promising lots of local beery delights and an interesting bottle beer list, you can read all about it here.
While on the Hydes brewery visit, talk turned to the Pack Horse at Affetside. This well-known country pub was once a mainstay in the Good Beer Guide but has suffered in recent years from bad management. The good news is that Hydes have taken it back under their wing and spent £900,000 remodelling it. Having now been myself, I can testify that they’ve done a great job; one of the best I’ve seen. And with the beer quality back up to scratch, this is well worth a visit.
Finally, something for the culture vultures among you. Bury has a new art gallery on Bolton St. Worth a visit on its own merit. But particularly noteworthy as today saw the launch of a major exhibition by prominent local artist, Malcolm Lucas. Described in the Daily Mirror as “a castaway from Last of the Summer Wine” Mr Lucas is a well-known man-about-town who is no stranger to the odd hostelry or two. All are welcome, preferably with cheque book in hand.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Weird Beard@PSBH


Another Monday, another meet the brewer at Port Street Beer House. Now tickets for these things are getting harder to get hold of than a leprechaun’s treasure chest. And it doesn’t help when it’s a brewer(y) of renown such as Weird Beard. They’re yet another London outfit knocking out good beer. In fact: very good beer. As recognised by ratings website RateBeer which ranked them 5th best new brewery of 2013. Impressive stuff; no wonder tickets were in short supply.

Our host for the evening was Gregg, one half of the aforementioned Weird Beard. There being no flies on me, I immediately clocked that his beard wasn’t that weird at all. He almost sounded disappointed as he explained that his absent partner Brian was the real weird beardy wearer. Gregg turned out to be an amiable, open guy who encouraged us to approach him to discuss things in more detail. His insights were the sort I like; concise and to the point, thereby leaving more time for supping.
Gregg and Brian were both homebrewers of note before setting up their own brewery and this probably explains why the starting standard was so good. Gregg was converted to the good beer cause (like many a new wave brewer) after a trip to the USA and you can still see that influence in many of their beers. Interestingly he’s also a fan of the Soratchi Ace hop, a hope that seems to have as many fans as detractors.

Little Things That Kill
This is an experimental number. The malt and body stay the same but the hops change at the brewer’s discretion. I can see the appeal in that from their perspective but as a punter I’m not sure I want a beer changing all the time. Having said that, this is the second time I’ve sampled this 3.5% beer and it’s terrific. Definitely one of the best low vol beers out there. This was batch 5 and mixed Galaxy with Soratchi Ace, Summit and Apollo. Some on my table voted it best of the night.

Single Hop Citra Pils
An interesting case, this. Gregg, being honest, admitted this wasn’t right. The bottle version had been ok but the draught version was below par. Indeed when it warmed up there was no mistaking the green apple, acetaldehyde tang. Being a Pils fan, I was ready to be outraged by a Citra bastardisation, but this has real potential. Anyway, it can’t have been that bad as I supped it easily enough.

Five O’clock Shadow
Their classic American IPA rarely disappoints and didn’t again tonight. A good malt backbone gives way to a tantalising blast of Apollo, Citra, Columbus and Summit hops. Never mind 5 o’clock, I could drink this anytime.

Fade to Black
Another interesting one. This is supposed to be a Black IPA. I say “supposed” because Gregg admitted they were aiming for a bit of a dry Stout feel to this beer. Must be the Irish influence. And the blend of Summit, Citra and that old favourite Soratchi certainly leans the beer that way. So is it a classic Cascadian Dark? Probably not. Is it a very good beer, irrespective of style? Oh yes.

Decadence
Another big favourite of the night. This is a full-bodied Stout that oozes, erm, decadence. Rich chocolate and coffee flavours assault the palate. Which is interesting as there is no roasted barley in it; only the precise combining of 8 different grains. So not only a fine beer but a lesson in brewing, no less.

A very enjoyable evening with some excellent beer. Thanks once again to everyone concerned.