Thursday, 27 February 2014

Blue Moon at Craft Beer Rising

Last Friday I managed to get down to the Craft Beer Rising trade session at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane in London. I’m sure you read my shining review of last year’s event and as many other people have dictated, this year was even better so I’m not going to repeat what they’ve all said.

I want to talk about Blue Moon, the Molson Coors owned ‘craft’ lookalike brand. OK so as many will argue, they’re not craft but fuck those guys.

Blue Moon is a Belgian style Wit, and in my opinion is quite nice. It’s highly drinkable and mighty refreshing, giving you a nice whack of orange peel, lemon and a sprinkling of coriander. I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a fan, as long as it’s not served with slice of orange floating in it.

Anyway, I’m sure you all know of it and have your own opinion which to be honest, you can keep to yourself as I’m sick of hearing everyone get all judgemental. The beer community is not meant to be like that so just stop it.

Well, the Blue Moon division of Molson Coors brought along some bottles of their other beers for everyone to sample and I want to talk about those.

First up, I tried the Gingerbread Spiced Ale (5.8%), which I thought did exactly what it says on the bottle. It pours very orange, with a nice aroma of ginger and other spices you’d associate with Christmas as well as lots of brown sugar, and it all comes through in the taste but is very well balanced. The great thing is that it didn’t taste as sweet as the aroma dictated, so I could probably drink a fair few of these!

Rounder Belgian Ale (5.6%) was up next and proved to be my least favourite of the bunch. Both the aroma and flavour was caramel and toffee with absolutely no variation or anything interesting going on. I can understand why many people would enjoy it, but it just wasn’t for me.

I went for Mountain Abbey Ale (5.6%) next and to be honest, it wasn’t bad! Yeah, there was caramel on the nose, but it was a little more interesting with some pronounced banana and a handful of wheat. The banana and caramel really came through in the taste, but what would stop me from drinking more than a bottle is the very sweet finish.

My final beer in the Blue Moon series was Short Straw Farmhouse Red Ale (5.8%) which proved to be my favourite of the bunch. You’ve got nice red fruits and a little caramel on the nose then right at the end you can smell the funky Belgian yeast. When you take a sip, some strawberries and hibiscus are there with a dash of white pepper before you notice the slightly tart & funky yeast.

Overall Verdict:

Overall, I was actually quite impressed. OK so there does seem to be a running theme with the caramel and maybe a sweetness issue but you’d expect that from a big brewing company. Really though, the beers aren’t bad. They’re not exactly the best examples of the styles they’re attempting to create but they’re perfectly drinkable.

I do have one major annoyance, however, and that is the fact that these beers are not available in the UK and they don’t have any plans to make them available to us. Yep, you read that correctly. They go to a British beer event with some beers that you can try there on the spot but you can’t buy them again if you like them, which I think is really fucking unfair on the consumer.

But still, despite bringing some interesting beers to Craft Beer Rising, I can’t imagine Blue Moon’s stall was very popular, which is sad because they have as much right to be there as Thornbridge and the like. It pains me when people won’t give a beer a chance purely because it doesn’t fit into their ideals of ‘craft’ or because the brewery is actually a big multi-national brewery.

When I first got into the beer scene, I thought it was great. I thought all of the people in it were so cool, like a tight community but in reality they’re not. While the vast majority of people I meet are lovely, they can turn into a horrible, judgemental bastard in a split second if you drink the wrong thing or do something that’s un-beer geek like and it’s increasingly frustrating.

So basically, that’s why I decided to write about my experience of Blue Moon's beers. Because I enjoyed them and because fuck you and your ‘craft’ beer.


Monday, 17 February 2014

I took a week off booze

From Friday 7th of February, until Friday 14th, I decided to take a week off of booze. Initially I doubted myself. I was worried that I'd cave after a day, or at least a few days but I didn't.

The first few nights were quite difficult, to be honest. Especially being a weekend, where I'd normally go out for a few pints or at least have a few bottles at home but after the initial cleaning up period, I didn't even think about it.

Hell, I started thinking about beer negatively. Taking a week off made me ashamed and disgusted at myself, looking at all of my fellow beer geeks' check ins on untappd. Beer every single night for a lot of people. Usually multiples too. It was odd. Most weeks I'll have the occasional day off here and there and it's fine, but taking a week off really makes you think.

Add to that, the fact that I felt great. So clean and clear headed. It was awesome.

Still, I thought that when Friday struck I'd be really excited about having a few beers but I wasn't. I felt no special feelings towards it, and kinda felt that I didn't really want to drink at first. It was an odd experience, considering I obviously I love beer.

I wasn't going to go out at first. I figured I just couldn't be bothered. I was going to just head home and probably drink some Pepsi Max. Hell, when Moses first texted me inviting me to The Trafford Arms Valentine's beer festival, I originally said no. I wasn't feeling it. But then I decided that I needed to get out and socialise for a bit.

We got to the pub and had a beer, and I struggled to drink it. I was having a good time, but drinking at half the pace I usually do, which is half the pace others were drinking. I didn't like it at first. Even through my second beer, an old favourite, Thornbridge Wild Swan, it was difficult.

I think it was when I had my third beer of the evening I started enjoying drinking again. Two more beers followed after that and I thought it was great.

I got home and resolved to have another few days off because of how great I felt, but that didn't work out. I'd fallen back into the trap of enjoying drinking again. Saturday I went to Harper Wells to see Brian, and after a few samples I left with a bottle of wine. I then stopped in the city and had a couple of pints, before coming home and drinking that bottle of wine. I had failed, completely.

Sunday didn't change. I ended up having a few beers, and I hated myself. I didn't have many but I hated that I'd fucked up on my own resolution.

Tonight I am having a night off and I will on Thursday, Friday and maybe even continue from there. I need to stick to my rule of only drinking midweek when something important or different is happening. Like tomorrow night I will be in London for work and with that comes with a welcoming committee who want to have a few beers with me. That's all good. It's not like I'm just sitting at home necking beers alone. And Wednesday I will be sharing some Great British beers with my friends in Nekrogoblikon (which will bring another blog).

Just having a week off really got me thinking.... Why did I drink so much before? Was it out of sadness and anger? Was it that my friends and I basically don't do any kind of socialising that doesn't involve beer? Am I drinking less because I'm a lot happier?

At the end of the day, I feel happy with my decision to drink less. I like feeling clean and clear headed. It's not like I've quit drinking. I'll still have a few beers occasionally. I just want to feel good.

I will not fall into the trap again. Beer is not everything.


Friday, 7 February 2014

Beers and bands

We all know that many people in the music industry enjoy a good drink. Rock stars are famed for their overindulgence causing them to throw TVs out of hotel windows, and are sometimes sadly victims of addiction.

Over the last couple of years a trend in the UK beer industry has started - musical artists collaborating with breweries to create a beer that relates to their band, more often than not it shares the name with one of their albums or songs.

The first I heard of this was that a company called Signature Brew popped up and their whole deal is that they're essentially gypsy brewers (for the uninitiated, this means that they don't have a brewery but instead go to other people's brewery and wreak havoc) -  who solely work with musical artists to specifically create a beer with them. I mean, they've worked with some pretty diverse and high profile artists like rapper Professor Green with whom they created a hoppy pale ale (very delicious), to folk/punk singer Frank Turner which was a wheat beer and now one of my favourite heavy metal bands Mastodon which brought a double black IPA.

What Signature Brew are doing is great. They're bringing music and beer together. They're trying really hard to get their tasty beers that are brewed with love and care, by them and the artists (yes, the artists actually have a lot of input into the beer) into music venues.

The problem is that now everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and they don't always offer good results. Robinson's had brewed a beer with Elbow previously, then they recently brewed a beer with my favourite heavy metal band of all time - Iron Maiden. It was called The Trooper, which is named after one of their singles and I REALLY wanted to love it but I didn't. I didn't hate the beer; it's bland and you can't really hate blandness. I just kind of expected more, even from Robbies, considering Bruce Dickinson is a beer fan and apparently quite knowledgeable on the subject. Maybe he likes that kind of thing, who knows, but it just wasn't what I expected from a heavy metal band!

We then had ska band Madness collaborating with Growler Brewery (previously Nethergate) and now we've got Wychwood collaborating with Status Quo, which I'm assuming they did solely because Status Quo are headlining Download Festival and Wychwood always have Hobgoblin there.

I'm bored of it.

Additionally, the publicity seems great for the beer industry on the face of it but is it a good thing that a lot of people, even those who generally claim to not like ale are buying it purely because they like the band regardless of how shit the beer is? These people, they won't touch a beer at any other time and I know this for a fact, still kind of being in the scene and I know people who only drink Carlsberg and Tuborg are buying it, drinking it and saying they love it. I'm betting you could give them the exact same beer with a different label and they'd say it it's disgusting.

Is it really good for the beer industry if people are buying a beer purely for the brand, even if it's not any good?

Personally, I don't think so.

What are your thoughts on this?