Wednesday 6 June 2012

Liverpool Pub Reviews
One of the most interesting (depending on how you look at it) changes in the beer industry in Britain has been the rise of “Craft Beer Bars”. Places such as Craft Beer Co. in London, Port Street Beer House in Manchester and the numerous BrewDog bars that are cropping up in nearly every city. Fuelled by a rise in consumer demand and a growth in craft beer bars, the bars will often stock the rarest or most sought after beers by some of the world’s most outstanding breweries. It is not uncommon to be told that your half of Stone Ruination IPA is £4.50 as you clasp the cool snifter or tulip handed to you by an enthusiastic and young (not always Australian these days) barman or woman(I know as I was once one of them).
On the other hand of the good beer drinking locale scale we have the real ale pub, a CAMRA favourite. This will stock nearly only cask-conditioned beer, with a few lager pumps, not always serving Stella or Fosters, but sometimes more less well known lagers such as Pilsner Urquell or Paulaner. These are frequented by beardy CAMRA types and are excellent pubs, but sometimes stock a less than inspiring range, but do a good deal of work in bringing in the mass market to the varied world of cask-conditioned beer. But is there an inbetween drinking establishment, Liverpool has the answer it seems in Bier.
Bier is a relatively new kid to the Liverpool pub and bar scene. Located on the rather unassuming and proudly dank Newington Temple inbetween the sparse Renshaw street and the more consumerist Bold Street , almost typifying it’s place in  the good beer establishment, it is a hard place to pin down.
You walk in to a beautifully tiled and wooden d├ęcor, which has airs of a Georgian drinking house with its wooden chairs and rickety tables, backed by a light green like grey colour scheme which, creak with the eclectic indie soundtrack that can blast out such artists MGMT to the Kinks to Arcade Fire to Oasis as well as a bit of Beatles (you can’t escape them in Liverpool). A nice touch is the rows of empty bottles of beer that sit along the shelving and anywhere that will stand them which seem to project a utilitarian elegance to the place, almost as if saying: ‘come in and sample some great beer, all are welcome’.
The first thing that strikes you is the well laid out bar with six handpumps and 8 kegs dispensing some obliquely common yet uncommon beers. Kozel sits beside Guinness. On the cask side there remains some stalwart favourites, such as Timothy Taylor Landlord, the ‘Rolls-Royce of cask ale’ as Pete Brown neatly puts it, to some more crafty beers such as Roosters Yankee, bursting with a nearly every tropical fruit under the sun, Mango gives way to lychee, to pineapple to orange, so refreshing after a long day of lectures and essay writing topped off with a healthy dose of writers block. Most of the beers are standard Liverpool prices, around £3.00 - £3.50 for a pint.
But the most interesting feature of this particular Liverpool haunt is it’s selection of bottled beer, so much so they have a selection booklet that lists every bottle that they regularly stock, including Orval. Orval for crying out loud, you have to go looking in some pretty special places to even find such a beer in London, this is just the tip of their Belgian selection; they also stock a wide range of Cru beers (or champagne beers) which will cost you around eight to ten pounds a bottle, which even by London is a pretty good price. The bottle list also contains some world lagers which I have failed to try and am also hesitant to do so due to the fact many seem oh-so-familiar to the mass produced, though refreshing, lagers we are served by the bucket load in Britain. Sure Mythos is great next to the beach with some Greek salad and barbequed chicken in Kavos, but it will just taste like a regular mass adjunct lager if drunk on a frigid day in Liverpool (at the time of writing Liverpool has not had any snow but feels as if the cold is scraping your face with daggers).
But if you are in any mood to drink some interesting beers, local or world, this bar-cum-craft beer bar is a great start to your drinking experience in Liverpool before you head over to the ale houses of the Ship and Mitre or the Dispensary; and if you would like an introduction to some really great beer than I would recommend this heartily.
Possibly the first craft beer bar in Liverpool? Maybe not, but it’s sure getting close to it.

Friday 10 February 2012

Liverpool Pub Reviews: The Dispensary, Renshaw Street

There are some Pubs in Liverpool that fall into different categories; some you would not go into unless part of a gaggle of students (mainly on Smithdown Road or Picton Road). There pubs that you seek out, such as Bier on Back Bold Street. And then there are pubs which draw you in because you just know it’ll be great. One of these pubs is The Dispensary.

The Dispensary is probably my favourite pub in Liverpool. Not because of the beer selection, though it is good, but for a number of other reasons. The Dispensary is never talked up as much as its rival pubs such as the Ship and Mitre and The Philharmonic. The former has arguably the widest and most eclectic range of beer available in Liverpool and I like it for that. But when you walk into The Dispensary you are greeted with a beautiful wooden panelled pub, with Victorian booths. In fact if it
wasn’t for the TVs, music and the kegs, you might think you had walked back into the 19th century to be greeted by many local and north-western breweries. 

There is the obligatory Cains handpump but the rest of the bar is taken up by breweries such as Titanic, Hawkshead and Roosters.  The keg line-up is not exactly BrewDog, but it doesn’t feature many of the larger name brands, smaller imported lagers such as Paulaner as well as a Cain’s export Lager and Erdinger fill up the keg lines, pushing out the oh so familiar Fosters. 

I order a half of White Monk from the Phoenix Brewery; it doesn’t disappoint. It’s Light, hoppy and balanced. Great British pale ale with a good head from the sparkler (suppresses southern annoyances), though I will admit that I have had better.

But what I love about this pub I that it I a riposte to the rather snobbish beer community that is starting to crop up in Britain, a product of the BeerAdvocate/ratebeer community in America which consider that unless a beer has been added with a fuck-load of hops (I will make no apologies for swearing) or has been aged on a elephants trunk than it is not a craft beer. Well I’m here in the Dispensary with a pale ale that bursts with Nelson Sauvin (Salopian’s Oracle) and it just under 5% and it’s tasting brilliant. No other country can make that boast. 

As I write I’m about to go up for another half of something, but consider this the first in a long-line of Liverpool pub reviews (and no I will not go to the Boundary at the top of Smithdown no matter how much anybody cajoles me) 


Wednesday 11 January 2012

A long time away from blogging (but not writing)

Long time no see blog.

I should of course have updated this blog more and more really, writing is a great passion of mine but ill give some explanation(s) of why i haven't been posting recently.

I have left my job at the Euston Tap, that should really read: left approximatly 4 months ago, because i now do not even live anywhere near London. I am now based in Liverpool, studying English and Irish Studies. I live in quite a nice stuent area around penny lane. Liverpool is a great city and with 500,000 students it caters easily for young brash 19 year olds like myself.

I have now given up bar work and have made quite a u-turn in terms of work. I now work at Liverpool University Officer Training Corps. It meanders halfway between a society and a job. Unlike other societies you are paid to come in every tuesday night to learn basic soldiering skills such as fieldcraft, use of different weapons systems and army life. You are also requred to attend some training weekends that occur every other weekend. It is run by the territorial army and is one of the best things ive doen for a long while. It keeps me active and some of the socials have become quite messy to say the least; the police were called after out play fighting got out of hand, leading to  us being refused entry at some of liverpools more desirable places.

I have not given up on ideas for the blog, i unfortunatly just do not get the time to put them down in writing. Liverpool is not as advanced in it's craft beer evolutionary status, and is looked down on by our cousins down the road in Manchester. Brewdog haven't even announced plans for a bar in Liverpool (which i find rather offensive). But that aside, there are many great pubs (and some not so good). Highlights include the Ship and Mitre on Dale Street (just off the queensway tunnel merseyside entrance), a quite samll and cosy place called Bier and my favourite; The Dispensary on Renshaw Street which is ideal for me as it just 5 minutes from the Univeristy Cmapus and excellent for a well deserved pint after trying to get through 2,500 words on the idea of the underworld in the Odyssey.

But whenever i return to London i like to sample the new places that have cropped up and whether they are actually any good. The most exciting of these is Brewdog Camden. This is a bar which i really like, yet i have mixed feelings about. The first thing to say is that it is a beautifully designed bar, Brewdog dispensers stand like guardsmen on parade dispensing beautiful draft beers from all over the world one time i was there i tries Lagunitas IPA ; a grapefuity and citrusy lipsmacker of a beer that was deceptively easy drinking. The problem was illustrated with a ttrip to both the Euston Tap and Craft Beer co. A distinct lack of British beers, but Brewdog assure us that they will be stocking darkstar, Magic Rock and Thornbridge beers soon among others; although there will still be no cask (which is a shame).

But this will hopefully be the start of a new life for this blog, i will have more time to blog soon after my exams finish. Oh yeah and i broke my toe.


Thursday 21 July 2011

Some Burning issues

I am writing this slightly tipsy after a pint of Stone Ruination IPA and a few bitters straight from the fridge (with a little time to warm up, lets not be too much of a philistine), and have decided in my drunken wisdom to not do a beer review, and instead write a blog about some blogosphere topics.

First up, BrewDog vs CAMRA/Cask vs Keg. Is this really going to sway the average drinker. No. Wouldn't it be better to educate that drinker about the pleasures of great beer and moving away from the large corporations then squabble about what is the best way to serve beer, or what beer goes well with Cask or Keg. even if we have to denigrate ourselves by serving Punk IPA in a cask form (Shock. Horror). we need to focus energy within the beer community on the real enemy, the massive corporations advertising they yellow soda water and buying up craft brewers. this brings me on to my second point.
What a load of marketing bollocks
Animee, a beer for the ladies. Now i know a few women (don't scoff, i do have relations with the other sex), but this is a fucking shit idea. End of. There is not even any point in discussing this, i can't imagine any women buying this. They will either stick to lager, craft beer or spirits (although i may try a little just to see what it is like).

Rant over.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Stone Cali-Belgique IPA and my new job.

Many of you reading this will either be perusing the internet or be a beer geek. If you are in the latter you’ll probably be interested in my latest review; Stone Brewing’s Cali-Belgique IPA.

Already the name spikes interest, what is a Cali-Belgique IPA. Simply put, it is a IPA brewed with Belgian yeast strains. This is supposed to add funkiness to the flavour of the beer. Whether this is true or not I will discuss later.

I actually now work at the Euston Tap so I am at the point of a great supply of bottled beers from around the world, some admittedly better than others, yet better than the average off-licence selection. Adding to this greatness is a small discount which I can use to buy some more expensive beers. We recently had a shipment of Stone products which included most of their regular line of beers in bottles plus some in keg (including the lovely Smoked Porter). I bought this and an Arrogant Bastard Oaked with my tips. I would save this for a little longer but after a 3-day shift, this was calling out from the fridge

But back on to the beers, literally and figuratively, and to the review of this IPA. First of all the beer comes in a strikingly good looking bottle. One advantage the American brewers seem to have of their British counterparts is the great marketing aspect of their beers. Although the new wave of craft breweries such as Otley and Kernel buck the trend of pump clips that have some truly awful designs, the American Brewers seem to have such great marketing originality in their packaging.
But on to the actual beer itself; the beer has a slight hazy look. Although many people are put off by this, I actually quite like it, it looks quaint and nice, a break from the clear as water mass-produced lagers. This is also a bit of a subjective view, although it is expected you are served a beer that has good clarity in a pub, at home it can be forgiven.
The smell is intoxicating, and is very similar to Sierra Nevada Torpedo, which is an outstanding beer, yet if you smell for a little while longer than other people (go on, have a gander), there is a very complex aroma that I could not get my head around, almost spicy, maybe piny; I cannot discern, yet it was good enough to dive into on the first whiff. But it is very tutti-frutti (if I am allowed to say that).
The taste is altogether a little step back, the first sip you take is full of those pleasing citrus pithy flavours that are indicative of an American IPA: orange, grapefruit and lemon are all there and it’s like seeing a bunch of regular friends. You then get an almost citrus bitter taste as you swallow the first mouthful. Then there is a lovely citrus-yet-spicy character lingering in your mouth. The malt comes through in the alcohol; and this is an alcoholic beer at 6.9%, yet I don’t actually want to taste malt in a beer like this. I enjoy them for the lovely fruity flavours they bring, but I equally dislike it when they are unbalanced e.g. with too many fruit flavours in place of malt. Yet this is balanced enough to provide a canvas for the fruit flavours.

But how does the Cali-Belgique IPA stand out. I’ll tell you how. The yeast strain gives it, in my opinion, a Imperial IPA taste, without the massive amount of alcohol (although this is suitably boozy). Yet it could stand out a little more in my opinion.

Overall I would give this an 8/10, not as good as Torpedo, but a damn sight better than a lot of IPA’s.
As ever put any comments in the comment box. Cheers

Tuesday 21 June 2011


If you have even the slightest interest in beer, many of you will know that home brewing, especially in the US, is becoming a big deal.Once seen as a bit of a maligned past-time as the preserve of old-men who were too tight too buy their mates a round at the local, it has instead become a massive past-time; many of the US brewers (most notably Sierra Nevada's Ken Grossman) starting out as home-brewers.

I have actually been in possession of a home brewing kit, albeit a basic Coopers kit, for a year but i have wanted to revisit it recently. So i have decided to put it to good use but add something extra.

I wanted to add an extra twist to the basic bitter recipe by adding a bit of summer zest to the beer. After the Malt has been dissolved in hot water, i will add some kaffir lime leaves and lemon peel to give the beer, hopefully a more refreshing taste for the coming summer months.

Will update on this when fermentation is complete and i can have a preview taste before being bottled, but hopefully it will accentuate the typical citrus flavours you get in a English bitter.

Oh, and this is in memoriam to one of the greatest saxophonists of all time who sadly died over the weekend:

Monday 20 June 2011

The Euston Tap and Sierra Nevada Torpedo

Haven't blogged for a while due to exams and all; revision is a killer. But i am now free to drink as much great beer as possible until i go away to Kavos where there will a lack of good beer for sure.
The Euston Tap, albeit in colder climes

As most in the English beer scene know, the Euston Tap has become something of a mecca for beer lovers in London and the home counties due to its friendly and knowledgeable staff as well as its amazing beer selection.

They serve both cask ale and keg beer, which will no doubt annoy some CAMRA members. I treated myself to two cask beers in the form of BrewDog's The Edge and The Redemption Brewery's Trinity. Both absolutely amazing beers form two very young breweries.

The BrewDog was my first and was in the mild style of ales. This often has a reputation for a lack of flavour, boring socks and sandals problem. But here that was simply not the case. It is incredibly low strength at 2.7% a.b.v. and made up in flavour what it did in taste. For such a low alcohol beer it was incredibly malty, there was an almost sourdough like taste to the beer, this was followed by coffee taste with a fruity after-taste. An excellent beer.

The second beer i had was the Redemption Trinity. Redemption are one of the newest breweries in London and they have some real guts behind them as they ride the wave of new London breweries like Sambrooks and Kernal. Trinity derives its name from the three types, the trinity if you must, of hop. They are all American and it is a pale ale in the style of the American Pale Ale. The nose is dominated by tropical fruit, as is the palette and it makes for a bloody refreshing beer at only 3%.
Better than it's younger brother

The Euston Tap also stocks bottled beer, albeit rather expensive at  minimum price of around £3.00 (making it possibly the only downside of this great craft beer bar), but quality does come at a price. I purchased a Sierra Nevada Torpedo and a Goose Island IPA. The Goose Island will have to wait, but for now, the Sierra Nevada. Most people will be familiar with Sierra Nevada's classic pale ale and it is very good, a store cupboard favourite for me; yet this i a wholly different beast. It is incredibly strong at 7.2% but the alcohol never really comes through. On the nose is an almost tutti-fruitti smell. like a sweet shop. The palette has some nice maltiness, and this is complimented by a massive explosion of tropical fruit and grapefruit. It is a roller coaster ride of flavour and one of the best bottled beers i have had for a long time. The only problem is that it is too drinkable, not good at 7.2%, you could get shit-faced pretty easily on these (although you would look more dignified than half the paint-stripper-cider drinkers).