Friday, 25 April 2014

Beer and Dieting Week 16

As I am writing this my head is spinning round and in the words of Elvis Costello - 

'I can't stand up for falling down'  

This post will be short and have very little in the way of beer reviews because my head is not spinning from a hangover.  A virus affecting the inner ear has given me acute vertigo for the past week which began with me being carried into an ambulance and spending a night in hospital.  The good news in all of this is that I have reached my weight loss target of 30lb with a week to spare.  Not really the way I wanted to lose the last couple of pounds but beggars can't be choosers.  Now I just have to make sure I get better in time to enjoy my reward with a weekend enjoying the beery delights of Manchester at the end of May.
Prior to falling sick I did manage to enjoy one CAMRA social enjoying a mixed bag of beers.  This social was a rarity in that I could walk to the first pub.  It is a good couple of miles for me into town but it was a dry evening as far as the weather was concerned.  We began in the centre of Bognor Regis at a pub called The Alex.  This Enterprise Inn has been up for sale for quite some time and is still available if anyone is mad enough to take it on.  This was my first visit and it is a cosy two room pub with plenty of interesting furnishings and masses of hanging water jugs.  The beer choice of Bombardier, Doom B-Aaargh and Old Speckled Hen was far from interesting but my pint of the latter was in perfect condition.  Staying in Bognor we then popped in to the local 'Spoons where I enjoyed a pint of Camerons Galactico (4.2% ABV).  This real lager was very pleasant indeed.  A pale, crisp, refreshing pint that would be perfect come the summer.  
With closing time fast approaching it was decided to go to the Inglenook in Pagham for a final pint.  This is my closest pub as all my regular readers will know and the beer choice again did not disappoint.  There was time for a delightful pint of Atom India Pale Ale (5.6% ABV).  This strong robust IPA had a rich earthy bitterness to the finish.  This is the second beer I've enjoyed from this new Yorkshire micro and it was greatly enjoyed by all of my CAMRA friends too.   

Prior to my illness I was enjoying a week off work during which I took my family to Lewes in East Sussex for a day.  I found time to visit a pub that will be mentioned in a separate post later on as it is part of my journey around the Pub of the Year winners for all of the Sussex CAMRA branches.  What I will mention here is the fantastic pint I had.  The Pokies (3.6% ABV) is a superb full-flavoured pale hoppy beer from Manchester micro Blackjack.  This was my favourite beer of the past two weeks just edging out the Atom IPA.  

This brings my diet diary to a close and now I just need to have my cholesterol checked to see if I have brought it down from the stupendously high level it was at prior to the start of this journey.  That will have to wait until I am better so until then it is more of the healthy options and as I won't be getting any calories from beer for a while I will probably lose a few more pounds too over the next couple of weeks.  


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Beer and Dieting Week 14

The diet has gone really well these past two weeks and my total weight loss now is half a pound short of two stone and just a further two and half pounds shifted will see me reach my target.  My original plan was to reach my target by the end of April and with three weeks to go that is now looking easy but a few days away next week and an Easter weekend of chocolate and hot cross bunnies to come perhaps I will need the full three weeks to lose these last couple of pounds.

The cask ale update this week will be much shorter than usual because I have been spending much of my drinking time at the Wetherspoons International Real Ale Festival which I have been documenting in a separate post and you can catch up on that one here.  However, there has been a few CAMRA social events I can tell you about which were far from mundane.

The CAMRA social to Chichester last week began at the Belle Isle, my new favourite bar in this lovely cathedral city.  The beer selection seemed pretty good as usual and I opted for a pint of The Full Nelson (4.8% ABV) from Welsh micro Tiny Rebel.  Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand combine with a sweet Munich malt to create an interesting beer.  There was a slight sharp tang of grape mixed with an underlying fruity sweetness which made for quite a complex beer that wasn't totally to my taste.  I was in the minority though as it was going down a storm with my CAMRA friends.
After a short stop at the local 'spoons, the Dolphin and Anchor, we moved to the Chichester Inn.  This pub is a GBG regular and I was finally able to enjoy a pint of Plateau (3.5% ABV) from new Sussex micro Burning Sky.  The former Dark Star brewer, Mark Tranter, has an awesome reputation that is totally well deserved.  Finding this beer has been a long time coming and it was definitely worth the wait.  Despite the low strength this pale straw coloured beer is packed with hops from the US and New Zealand giving off a massive burst of zingy citrussy notes.  It has an amazingly crisp bitter finish and this beer gets top marks from me.  To finish off the evening I had a half of the Dark Star Seville (4.0% ABV).  I'm not a fan of sweet fruit beers but my CAMRA friends praised it highly when it was brewed last year and although they were disappointed with it on this particular evening I absolutely loved it.  The taste from the bitter oranges complemented the bitterness from the hops perfectly to give a refreshing spicy bitter twang that I thought was superb.         

Last Wednesday I was able to join up with the CAMRA Sussex Bus to the Pub Group as they invaded my local pub, the Inglenook.  They could not have timed their visit any better as the beer selection was top notch.  I began with a Duke IPA (5.2% ABV) from the Highland Brewing Company based in Orkney.  It may have had a long way to travel but it was on fine form.  A lovely mix of grassy hops, tropical fruits and English bitterness.  It was only a lunchtime visit for me but I could not resist trying the Magic Rock High Wire (5.5% ABV) to finish off as this happens to be one of my favourite beers.  The mix of rich tropical fruits such as mango along with a tangy citrussy burst of grapefruit leads in to a superb bitter finish which is slowly eliminated by the rich tropical fruit flavours that pervade throughout.  

To bring this update to a close we had our monthly Western Sussex CAMRA meeting at the Maypole, a superb village local I have mentioned previously.  Unfortunately it was my turn to drive so I could only enjoy a pint which came from North Yorkshire Brewing Co.  Their Yorkshire Porter (4.4% ABV) wasn't as rich as I like but it had some lovely coffee bitterness and liquorice notes to enjoy.  

That's it for this time.  Hopefully my next update will be my last and I can concentrate on giving you a regular cask ale update without the weight loss figures. 


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Yorkshire Ales Part 3 - Geeves Brewery

Geeves Brewery step up to the bar this week for my third Yorkshire Ales review.  Before ordering from Yorkshire ales I knew nothing at all about Geeves and I don't know whether it is pronounced with a 'J' or a 'G' either.  They began brewing in 2011 with a 5.5 barrel plant on an industrial estate in Barnsley.  The owners once lived on a narrow boat and that is where they actually began brewing before moving on to dry land to set up their brewery.  This would explain their logo and obsession with all things related to canals and the vessels that use them.   

If you want to catch up on my previous reviews you can click here for Revolutions Brewing Company and here for Axholme Brewing Company.  Twenty-eight is the score to beat so let's see if Geeves can barge their way into the lead.
Clear Cut (4.4% ABV)

This is my favourite pale beer of the competition so far by quite a distance.  The aroma is reminiscent of pine needles carpeting the forest floor after a sudden downpour.  It is packed with American hops and there are strong pine notes in the flavour along with some lemony and floral notes.  This beer is really lovely and it is instantly refreshing and crisp and it finishes with a superb dry bitterness.  My wife appreciated this one too and this extremely drinkable session ale picks up a score of 9/10.  

Fully Laden (6.0% ABV)

After the last one I had high hopes for this strong IPA.  This just goes to show you should never assume anything.  It looked perfect after pouring but I could not detect much of an aroma.  The initial taste was quite grassy and earthy and the finish was smooth and rich but the sweetness was keeping the bitterness in check and vice versa.  Perhaps everything was just being cancelled out.  There were some tropical fruit notes and the finish had some earthy bitterness but overall it was a little too bland for my liking.  My wife said it was a little tasteless too so it wasn't just me.  This one picks up 6/10.                    

Red Diesel (4.1% ABV)

This final beer is a red ale and I must say it had a fantastic rich copper colour to it.  The aroma gave me a whiff of bitter oranges and there was a lovely earthy bitterness to this one throughout which mixed with a complex malty base.  This is definitely a complex beer despite it being single hopped with the American Willamette variety.  There were hints of apricot there initially along with a sweet malty base.  A more rounded sweetness of peaches slowly seeped into the bitterness making for a lovely bittersweet finish.  My wife didn't dislike it and I would give it a score of 8/10.  A very interesting and enjoyable beer.       

My final score is for the branding.  The barge theme works well and the logo shape of a sliced section through a barge works well and would look good on a pump clip.  The labels are colourful without being 'in your face' and I like it that the beer names are explained on the labels too.  Everything works well.  The website is easily navigable (as I'd expect from their theme) and overall it is well worth a score of 8/10.  This means that Geeves have cruised into pole position with an overall score of 31.  

Next week I will be introducing you to the delights (or otherwise) of The Hop Studio.      


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Yorkshire Ales Part 2 - Axholme Brewing Company

The second brewery to be reviewed from my big box of Yorkshire Ales is actually from Lincolnshire.  Axholme Brewing Company began brewing in 2012 with a small 2.5 barrel plant so this operation is very much in its infancy.  The name comes from an area known as the Isle of Axholme which straddles the Lincolnshire / Nottinghamshire border between the towns of Doncaster, Scunthorpe and Gainsborough.  

Last week Revolutions Brewing Company were the first brewery to be reviewed and they came up with a score of 28 from a possible 40.  If you failed to see the start of my little competition between the brewers of Yorkshire then you can catch up here.  Let's get supping to see if Axholme can beat that total.
Clearwater Pale Ale (4.3% ABV)

This pale beer was probably a bit too restrained for my liking.  There was a citrussy floral hoppiness to it with hints of lemon and elderflower above anything else but it was far from overpowering.  It was very crisp and refreshing though with a little bit of grapefruit cropping up in the finish and it would make for an excellent session ale.  It is certainly a decent enough beer but my wife found a bit bland and it was one which did not excite me too much either.  This scored a very solid 6/10. 

Pumpkin Porter (4.3% ABV)

My wife was looking forward to this one after I had poured it but the aroma was certainly more smoky than both of us expected.  There was plenty of roasted malt here but this was added to an underlying bitterness that was actually quite smooth and very pleasant.  My wife did not go overboard about it but she said it was OK.  There was no sweetness to it at all really which is what I was expecting for some reason but it didn't take me long to adjust to what is actually a very smooth porter with lots of lovely coffee bitterness which lingered well into the finish.  I liked this one very much and I scored it 8/10.    

Special Reserve (7.2% ABV)

This high ABV beer looks very inviting.  I wasn't too sure about the aroma.  It gave the impression of sweet oranges and I was thinking it may be a little too sweet and sickly perhaps.  My wife took first sip and was loathe to give it back to me.  This was definitely to her liking and she would have happily finished it off.  I didn't give her the chance of course.  It was a little sweet but it struck just the right balance between sweet and bitter.  It tastes very strong for sure and you know you need to treat it with care.  It is one to enjoy at a more leisurely pace and that is exactly what I did.  Definitely oranges in the taste along with apricot and peach but there was quite a bitter tang in there which was quite complex and lasting into the finish.  This beer would be perfect at Christmas.  One to leave out for Santa to enjoy and he would certainly remember his visit.  I was finding it hard to decide whether to award this beer a 7 or an 8 but as my wife loved it so much I gave it the higher mark so it's an 8/10.

Branding is a difficult one to judge and it is all down to my personal taste of course.  The website certainly has an amateur look to it which did not impress me at all but although the labelling is simple I do like them in the same way I like the brown paper labels from Kernel.  A clear easy-to-read font in black on a white background actually stands out well and they would be easy to spot on the shelves of your local bottle shop.  Overall I would award them 6/10 for the branding.  

In round two of this 'Come Drink With Me' competition we have a tie with Axholme also posting a score of 28.  The beers scored higher and my wife certainly enjoyed the Axholme beers considerably more than those from Revolution but the branding let them down.  In the event of a tie though the beer scores take precedence so Axholme take the lead.

Leaderboard after round 2 with the beer scores in brackets

1.  Axholme Brewing Company 28 (22)
2.  Revolutions Brewing Company 28 (20) 

Next week we have Geeves Brewery stepping up to the plate.