Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Harveys of Sussex

This post is going to be dedicated to the family brewer Harveys.  It is always a joy to visit a town that is dominated by a brewery and a couple of weeks ago a visit to Lewes was in order so my wife could browse the antique shops.  We parked on the banks of the River Ouse which gave us fine views of the brewery on the opposite bank.  The smell of a working brewery filled the air and just a single sniff is enough to have my brain in gear for beer.  The brewery was not our reason for visiting of course but there was time for a peek inside the brewery shop and purchase some of their bottled ales for sampling back at home.

Twenty years ago brewing in Sussex was dominated by King & Barnes in the western part and Harveys in the east.  My preference was always for K&B but living in Horsham at the time may have had something to do with that.  K&B has long since gone and Harveys remains as the oldest independent family brewer of Sussex.  The Victorian gothic tower of the brewery remains a much loved Lewes landmark and brewing on the site goes back nearly 200 years.  I'm becoming used to visiting modern micros located in bland industrial units so seeing a traditional brewery steeped in history is something special.                 

Living in West Sussex I do not come across Harveys beer a great deal although they do have a few very nice pubs in our area.  Last night I was able to go through much of their cask range at the Western Sussex CAMRA social visit to the excellent White Horse at Rogate.  This pub on the A272 midway between Midhurst and Petersfield is listed in the current GBG and is a lovely village local steeped in history as it dates back to the 16th century.  Plenty of oak beams, a flagstone floor and a huge log fire make it a welcoming pub in winter and the garden at the rear is popular in the summer as it backs on to the village sports field and childrens playground.     

Having previously tried the 3.5% IPA which I find to be a little bland I went through the other three beers last night.  I began with the Sussex Best Bitter (4.0% ABV) which is a classic best bitter with quite a nice traditional English hoppy bitterness well balanced by a good malt character.  From here I progressed to the Armada Ale (4.5% ABV) which had plenty of dry bitterness but lacking the floral fruity notes I remembered about it.  The finish was very dry and long.  Finally I tried their summer ale Olympia (4.3% ABV).  This refreshing golden ale was much sweeter than the previous two bitters and this did have a fruity character.  Overall the Sussex Best was probably my favourite but none of them compare to the amazing Old Ale (4.3% ABV) that comes out in the winter months.  It is at this time that I will actively seek out a Harveys pub as this beer is quite magnificent and I suggest you do the same.    

Their bottled beer range is extensive and I picked up four to try from my visit.  The first of these was the Tom Paine Ale (5.5% ABV).  Thomas Paine is famous as the author of 'The Rights of Man' but the strength of this beer, 1055, is the standard excise gravity to honour the fact that this political radical was an excise officer in Lewes between 1768 and 1774.  It has a lovely malty aroma.  The hop flavours are quite floral initially and they lead into a superb dry bitter finish.  This is indeed a nicely balanced robust pale ale.    

The second beer I chose was the limited edition Priory Ale (6.0% ABV).  This beer is certainly different.  It has been brewed with ingredients that were supposedly available to the Cluniac Order at the Priory of St Pancras in Lewes in 1264.  It is brewed with wheat, oats and barley with hops and yarrow providing the bitterness.  That all sounds good but then it is conditioned with ale cost (tansy), rosemary and thyme and the resultant ale smells exceptionally 'herby'.  It is very sweet, aromatic and the strength of the rosemary I find to be too overpowering.  It is an interesting beer for sure.             

Next up is the Star of Eastbourne (6.5% ABV) and this seasonal bottled beer is produced annually each October.  I'm not sure what the significance of the beer name is but Eastbourne is a traditional seaside town about 20 miles to the east of Lewes and the start point for the South Downs Way that runs close to Lewes.  The beer is described as an old style IPA that was traditionally exported around the globe in the 19th century.  The golden ale has a fruity hoppy aroma and there is a distinctive fruity floral hop character to the taste.  It is highly refreshing with a very smooth dry bitter finish which makes it so easily drinkable which at 6.5% ABV can be quite dangerous! 

Finally we come to the 7.5% ABV Elizabethan Ale.  This beer is listed in the Roger Protz book '300 More Beers To Try Before You Die' and I confess to being a tad confused here.  Here it is described as almost being black in colour with all the flavours that colour implies.  Well I can only tell you about my version.  It pours a little thinly and is a rich golden colour.  There is a sweet alcoholic aroma to it and my wife thought it was a honey beer after tasting it.  It does have a certain resemblance to the liquid centre of honey and lemon lockets but this sweetness disperses in the finish where there is a slight spicy bitterness.  Even the Harveys website suggest there is black malt in the recipe and it has been modelled on the dark barley wines prevalent at the time of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  It is a nice beer but not what I was expecting or what I expect from a barley wine.              

A trip to Lewes should be on the agenda of every beer lover.  Not only is it a town that is dominated by a historical working brewery but it is also full of many fine independent shops, has a marvellous castle and has a large number of excellent pubs.  The tiny free house, the Gardeners Arms, is my pick of the bunch and it is a short walk from the Harveys brewery shop.


Friday, 11 July 2014

World Cup - Final Four

The final four countries can be split between two top beer nations and two nations somewhat lower down the scale.  It has been quite a trawl around the internet beer companies to source beer from as many of the nations taking part but thanks to Beer Hawk, Beers of Europe and Beer Merchants I managed to come up with an interesting selection for most countries.  I'm not quite sure why some of these beers ever get imported however but there must be a market for them.  On the other hand I have been pleasantly surprised by quite a few of these beers too.  If you want to read my previous posts you can catch up here.  

Quarter Finals           

The best of this little lot came from Holland as with the tournament as a whole.  The Germans have been consistent throughout and the French surprised me with some interesting and tasty beers too.  As an exercise in learning more about world beers it has certainly proved successful and there are plenty of beers I will go back to.  

Sunday July 13th Germany v Argentina

I was wanting a beer nation to win the World Cup so I was giving full support to Germany with a couple of beers - one for each half.  Sadly I ran out during extra-time but Germany managed to eventually get the winning goal with minutes remaining.  I began with this black beer from Koestritzer (4.6% ABV) and an excellent beer it is.  The brewery is located in the state of Thuringia in central Germany and is part of the Bitburger empire.  This beer is made with pale malt, Munich malt and roasted malt.  It is very nearly black and looks and tastes like a mild.  The roasted malt flavours are to the fore and there are some nice gentle spicy notes in there too from the Huller and Hallertau hops.  The finish is very smooth with a creamy feel to it and this is my favourite German beer of the tournament so far.  I loved it.       

For the second half I chose a classic wheat beer (5.4% ABV) from the Weihenstephan brewery based in Munich.  The 'Holy Stephen' brewery is reputedly the oldest brewery in the world dating back to 1040.  The brewhouse is now modern of course and this beer is made from a blend of barley and wheat malts and is lightly hopped with the traditional Hallertau variety.  The aroma is yeasty with hints of banana and nutmeg.  The appearance is golden and cloudy.  This is everything I expect from a wheat beer.  The flavour is very slightly sour, floral and aromatic with a fruity and spicy finish.  It is not my favourite beer style but when it is done well it is a refreshing change and I enjoyed it this evening as much as I enjoyed the winning goal.  A fitting finale to what has been an excellent tournament.                

Match score 1-0 (after extra time).  Beer scores 8/10 and 7/10.

Saturday July 12th Holland v Brazil

The third place playoff match must be the most meaningless game in football but I was happy to give this Belgian / Dutch beer a go.  This beer from brewster Hildegard van Ostaden is brewed at the La Trappe brewery in the Netherlands rather than the Urthel brewery in the Belgian town of Ruiselede.  Hop-It is a 9.5% ABV beer which mixes the traditional Belgian style ale with the American tradition of heavy hopping.  Light golden in colour it has a strong boozy aroma.  It has plenty of flavour from the hops with hints of pineapple, rich fruits, sherbet, spice and caramel.  Despite the strength it was oh so easy to drink and the refreshing dry cittrussy aftertaste was a delight.    

Match score 3-0.  Beer score 9/10.    

Wednesday July 9th - Argentina v Netherlands 

Sadly one of the worst nations for beer in this tournament has made it through to the final at the expense of one of the best.  For this match I chose my second Dutch beer of the tournament from the Koningshoeven brewery, the first trappist brewery from outside the Belgian borders.  In the group stage I chose their Tripel and this time I went for the Quadrupel that comes in at a headbanging strength of 10.0% ABV.  This beer is even better than the lower strength Tripel which was a mere 8.0% ABV.  This attractive amber coloured beer certainly has a boozy aroma.  The initial taste was fruity with a bit of a sharp spicy edge with notes of pineapple and sherbet mixed with lots of hints of various rich fleshy fruits.  Toffee notes are in there too and as a whole it is totally splendid.

Match score 0-0 (Argentina win 4-2 on penalties).  Beer score 9/10.     

Tuesday July 8th - Brazil v Germany

Thanks to the Hatters Inn, my local Wetherspoons pub, I was able to try this for my Brazilian beer for this match.  Sadly, this came after the day of the event so the Brazilian team must have thought they had to go into this match with a Brahma and were totally and utterly hammered.  Samuel Cavalcanti from the Bodebrown Brewery (based in Curitiba, Brazil) visited the coastal Suffolk town of Southwold to come up with this Pale Ale at the Adnams Brewery.     

Now as you can see below there is nothing much that is pale about this beer.  In fact it is a nice rich chestnut colour but it certainly smells hoppy.  This 5.0% ABV beer does have quite a traditional Adnams malty biscuity base to it and it does take a while for the tropical fruit flavours from the hops to shine through before everything gives way to a gentle bitter finish.  Overall it is a very nice smooth pint of beer that will give the Germans something to think about.     

I chose this Kellerbier (5.0% ABV) from the Kulmbacher brewery to represent Germany in this game.  Kellerbiers (cellar beers) are typically unfiltered lagers that are well hopped.  This is my first of this style so I have nothing to compare it too however.  I do love this kind of bottle and after pouring it had a nice frothy head.  The  beer itself had little aroma, a bit yeasty and slightly fruity but that was about it.  Pale brown in colour it had low carbonation and a bit of a short aftertaste.  Everything was understated but in a good way here.  Slightly cloudy to make it look inviting, slightly sweet with hints of caramel and orange.  Slightly spicy to give it a bit of a zing on the palate.  As with all my beers I do not cool them so this is served warmer than it is recommended but killing flavour is not what I like doing.  I found this beer beautifully refreshing without the need for cooling it.  This beer match was very close but I think the Germans just about edged it although they both scored the same.  Seven seems to be the recurring theme with this incredible match.    

Match score 1-7 (SEVEN !!).  Beer scores 7/10 and 7/10.                 

Monday, 7 July 2014

World Cup Beers - Quarter Finals

Saturday July 5th - Netherlands v Costa Rica

Having been corrected in my use of 'Holland' and the 'Netherlands' I am still in love with all things Dutch in this tournament.  For this game there was no opposition for them and I chose this 4.6% ABV saison from Brouwerij Emelisse.  This Dutch craft brewer began in 2005 and has grown steadily producing a range of beers based on traditional recipes.  This Saison is certainly a fine example of this style of beer.  It has a cloudy appearance with a vibrant golden colour to it with a nice frothy head.  The aroma is yeasty and fruity and the flavour is bursting with bitter citrussy notes combined with a zesty spicy zing with hints of tropical fruits coming through in the finish.  This is one more Dutch success and I am delighted they won this game so I can try another Dutch beer in the semi-finals.

Match score 0-0 (Holland win 4-3 on penalties).  Beer score 8/10.        

Saturday July 5th Argentina v Belgium

My sinlge bottle of Argentinian beer has long departed thankfully so I was desperately hoping Belgium could win this game.  The bottle I chose for them comes from the smallest of the currently approved Trappist breweries located in the Belgian municipality of Achel.  The monks of the Abdij de Achelse decided to restore brewing in 1998 and become the sixth Trappist brewery in Belgium.  There is actually a brewpub in the grounds of the abbey where visitors can drink the beers and view the brewhouse.  The brewery began with a blond 5% and a brune 5% and they added the 8% varieties in 2001.  It has a deep russet colour to it and there are some big flavours of fruit cake, caramel and some spiciness.  Everything you would expect from a rich, strong Belgian brune ale in fact.  A veritable intoxicating feast.

Match score 1-0.  Beer score 8/10.     

Friday July 4th Brazil v Colombia

With some lovely beers lined up for the quarter-finals I could not bring myself to ruin it by opening another bottle of Brahma so this was a dry match.  Brazil went through what was a very physical game and if there was a beer called 'lenient ref' then that would have been appropriate for this one.

Match score 2-1.  Beer score n/a.

Friday July 4th France v Germany

The quarter-finals kick off with what promises to be an excellent beer match.  For France I chose this effort from the Brasserie de Saint Sylvestre based in the NE region of France.  Gavroche is a character in Les Miserables apparently and this beer is a traditional Paris Red Ale (8.5% ABV) that is refermented in the bottle.  It is certainly a complex beer that I did not keep cool enough which is probably why it exploded out of the bottle when I opened it.  My wife thought it had the aroma of marmite.  I could really just smell alcohol.  The taste was quite harsh with hints of wood and tobacco and mustiness.  Not totally unpleasant as there was some subtle hints of rich fruits in there but these struggled to come through ahead of the woodiness and overall booziness of it.  An interesting beer for sure but one which I struggled to appreciate.        

For Germany I went for a traditional Doppelbock.  Paulaner Salvator (7.9% ABV) is described by Roger Protz in '300 Beers To Try Before You Die' as 'the classic Munich Bock, the benchmark for the style'.  It is brewed with lager malt, caramalt and Munich malt.  The hops are of the Hallertauer variety.  The colour is a deep russet colour.  It has the smell of a rich malt loaf and the first sip is quite intoxicating.  Rich and malty with hints of sherry and rich heavy fruits like raisin mixed with bonfire toffee.  My wife found it too rich and malty but I liked it a great deal.  This is a style I generally like and this is a beer I would willingly come back to.  Following the game it is goodbye to France and more beer from Germany to come.

Match score 0-1.  Beer scores 6/10 and 8/10.