Friday, 28 March 2014

Harviestoun Orach Slie review

Alright, I know, I'm starting to look like I'm sponsored by Harviestoun... I'm not, for the record but luckily they seem to like me and send me beers to try which is awesome!

Yeah, I'm a massive Harviestoun fanboy but when I first read about their whisky barrel aged lager Orach Slie I wasn't convinced. I'd never had a BA lager before. I'd read about them but I've always thought the idea was a bit odd and gimmicky and didn't understand how it would work so I avoided them. Maybe out of fear. I don't know.

Anyway, last night I got home to find 3 bottles of Orach Sile waiting for me and couldn't wait to crack one open. Can Harviestoun change my opinion of spirit barrel aged lagers?

This is what Harviestoun say about the beer:

"Our brewers specially selected a high abv (6%), lightly-hopped version of our craft lager, Schiehallion, to complement the classic, honeyed-sherry notes of Glenfarclas single malt whisky."

So what does the dawg say?

Pours golden but is slightly darker than you'd expect from a lager, presumably from the wood. Lovely foamy head that seems to stay a while too.

The aroma is lager malt, citrus hops and that unmistakable whisky tickling in your nostrils. The kind of aroma that makes you think "Fuck! This is probably going to burn as it goes down!"

It didn't though, it's smooth. You get all of the pleasure from a lager, but at the same time it's like you're drinking a decent whisky. Except a whisky would get you fucked up in a 330ml measure (please don't do that!). It's supremely enjoyable... citrus hops, lager malt, wood and whisky. Brilliant.

It's yet another beer from Harviestoun that I really like, which is surprising given my initial skepticism. I mean, I know they make really good beers all the time but the concept was what I doubted.

Has it convinced me on spirit barrel aged lagers? In general, no. I like this but I can imagine this is a rare gem. I mean, if I hadn't been sent any I probably wouldn't have bought it even though I've heard it's nice, purely because of the concept. I'm not going to rush out looking for other spirit BA lagers because I'll probably be disappointed.

I really am a Harviestoun fanboy, but what do you expect when they're making such good beers! Even convincing me that a spirit BA lager isn't actually a terrible thing.

Fuck you, Harviestoun for making me fall in love all over again!


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

2014 Update – Week 13

Alright people, I’ve been slack lately and haven’t been providing you with general updates regarding the goals I set for myself in 2014.

I had a bad period about a month ago when I fell off the wagon again. I was back to drinking every night of the week, and not just having a couple. I was drinking so much that I was drunk basically every night because I was fucking miserable but I soon kicked that after a couple of weeks and from there on out I was back to having a couple of nights off a week even though I had the money to drink.

I mean, last week for instance, I didn’t drink from Tuesday until Friday night (and even then it was wine not beer) and this week I think I’m going to go through until the Oakham Ales Tap Takeover on Thursday without drinking too. I know that from hereon out, I can definitely stick to not drinking midweek unless there’s actually something going on, or if I’m reviewing a couple of beers.

I’ve also set myself the target of actually reviewing a fucking album or two this week. Shocking, I know, but I’m going to pick something tonight and do it. I really need to. I need to put it out of my mind that I think I’m shit at writing about music, sit down and just do it.

As for food, I’ve not been eating a great deal lately. Haven’t really been feeling it. I eat breakfast which, you guessed it, is eggs basically every day but I’ve only been having a banana for lunch and frequently skipping dinner which is bad of me.

I’ve been getting a fuckload of exercise too… I’ve had a bicycle for a few weeks now and I’m absolutely loving it (despite the fact that I need to fix a puncture right now). Cycling to work and back every day has made me feel a lot healthier. I also went on a 9 mile cycle with my buddy Matt the other Saturday around all 3 Fat Cat pubs, ending up back at the original Fat Cat. OK, so a couple of pints in each means it wasn’t totally healthy but fuck it. And we’ve got nice weather now, so tennis has been on the cards which is awesome!

All in all, I’m feeling really good right now. Got good things going on in my personal life and I’m feeling healthier and therefore happier!

I’m going to try making these updates regular again, but I keep getting distracted by Adventure Time (I’m not to blame for that one) and Pok√©mon. I’m proper grown up, I am.

Also, news regarding my birthday shindig on 31st of May, don’t you fucking forget it. You’ll need to book train tickets from Stratford if you’re coming from London ASAP while they’re still cheap!


Saturday, 22 March 2014

GUEST REVIEW: MD 20/20 by Matt Smail

A while ago on twitter I was shouting for guest reviews of terrible beverages and the first to shout was my buddy Matt Smail who decided to review a drink from his youth - MD (or MAD DOG) 20/20. I've not had the pleasure of imbibing this particular beverage as my teenage years were all about Frosty Jack's, so I was certainly interested in what he has to say! I think we both forgot about it for a while then last night I was listening to the new Freddie Gibbs & Madlib album and during the track "Knicks" he mentions MAD DOG 20/20 which reminded me to tweet Matt about his review.

Anyway, what are his thoughts?

"It’s been a reflective evening for me. The day was a haze of conference calls crammed between meetings at opposite ends of Yorkshire and then as soon as I arrived home, I was straight back out again to shop for this weekends festivities, which happen to centre around my 31st birthday! Just as I walked out of my local ASDA, weighed down with a ton of shit that I should have bought a week ago, I received a tweet from Nate reminding me of the fact that I should have written this review about Mad Dog 20/20 over six months ago. I chucked my phone back in my pocket - “there’s nothing I can do about it today,” I thought.

I got home, threw together about 14 kilo’s of veggie chilli and wondered what to do next. With the chilli bubbling away, the thought of getting up at 7am to first barbecue and then slow cook a load of pork shoulder began to cross my mind. Then I thought of the pot of barbecue beans I made (which took 8 hours) yesterday evening. At this point, it became apparent - I am now an adult, doing adult things. As you have probably guessed, and possibly as a brief glimmer of defiant rebellion, I decided to drink the entire half litre bottle of Mad Dog.

Before I go on to talk about how Mad Dog 20/20 presents itself to my present, adult self; I think I would be doing it a great disservice if I didn’t mention it’s popularity with, well, children. I first encountered this foetid mix of rubbing alcohol, colourings and preservatives when I was about thirteen years old. Three 250ml bottles (Orange, Strawberry and whatever the blue one was) were enough to get me absolutely arseholed, and by 9pm I was in bed chucking up into the mop bucket. That wouldn't be my last childhood foray into the world of Mad Dog though, and I am absolutely certain that most people reading this will already be smiling at their own similar memories - perhaps you lay down in the road and rolled down it whilst boring adults beeped their horns and flashed their lights…? Maybe you and your mates found the courage to go into the local corner shop, attempt to distract the staff with your witty banter and then nick some Mr Kiplings’ Apple Pies…? Maybe they are my memories, but I bet yours are similar and equally ridiculous. That is, after all, why we all used to love Mad Dog, and perhaps the clue is in the name, who knows?

Back in the present tense, and upon inspection (whilst trying to avoid being too libellous) Mad Dog is pure evil. I stared at the completely unnatural, off-red liquid sitting in front of me. Mad Dog (particularly the much sought after Strawberry flavour) is a drink which I used to seek out at every opportunity when I was young - too young, perhaps. Now, I realised, I’d been putting off writing this review because I didn’t want to experience what was in the bottle. I knew it was going to be vile, but I opened it anyway.

The smell is unavoidable, indescribable and utterly offensive. Imagine an intoxicatingly sweet juvenile medicine like Calpol, mixed with pure, not-fit-for-consumption alcohol and then the lingering smell that resembles the breath of someone who has been eating those synthetic strawberry flavoured sweets. I said before that Mad Dog is pure evil - what I mean by that is that it almost certainly contains no natural ingredients whatsoever. The flavour of it is such that it might as well be from outer space. Again, medicine is certainly present, as is a slightly concerning (considering the drink is 13% ABV) alcohol burn, alongside that weird, completely wrong taste of strawberry flavouring. Small sips initially go down OK, but less than a glass into drinking it, I began to feel queasy and my lips were sticky with the (probably ridiculously high) amount of sugar I was ingesting.

I got about three quarters of the way through the bottle (including what I left in the last glass) before I had to give up. I actually  breathed a sigh of relief when I poured the last bit down the sink. Like the torrent of puke that left my body some eighteen years past, watching that strange, translucent liquid glide down the plughole brought me a brief moment of happiness - “at least” I thought, “that will not be inside me.” Whilst I write this review, I’m sitting drinking a bottle of Harviestoun Schiehallion which costs approximately £1.99 for a 300ml bottle. Why the fuck would I want to drink Mad Dog?

Do yourself a favour and trust me. You’re memories may be good, but like the original 1980’s version of Gauntlet or that Dolph Lundgren He-Man movie (Masters of the Universe,) Mad Dog 20/20 taste absolutely fucking awful and is made from the kind of ingredients which should never enter the human body. In fact, a last point on this - this is a drink which is so dodgy, I can only imagine that it is created by a group of failed scientists who stand around in labcoats concocting liquids that are literally on the absolute borderline of what is legally acceptable. Put that bottle back on the shelf son and get yourself a beer - or if you must have something pink, fruity and of dubious origin, then for fucks sake buy some Echo Falls rose!

Thanks for reading!

Massive thanks to Matt for enduring this poison for my own amusement! He's a really good chap and you should follow him on twitter, especially if you're into beer and gaming: @ragingkileak


Thursday, 20 March 2014

I think I’m bored of beer

Something has happened over the last couple of months, and it’s rather odd. I’ve increasingly been drinking less and less compared to last year. What started off as a health kick has become normality and this makes me happy. I no longer have the desire to drink to the levels I did as it got boring.
It’s not just the drinking of it I’m bored of, though.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love beer so it’s not like I’m about to quit drinking it. I just feel that I need to take a step back from this beer blogging thing as the concept of beer and talking about it is getting boring.

The reason it’s getting boring is because I’m sick of only ever talking about beer with 80% of the people I know, and the other 20% I’m assuming refuse to talk to me because 90% of what I talk about is beer. That or they think I’m a dick, which is also correct.*

I think it’s a sad state of affairs when you get so deeply into something that it’s constantly in your mind. Even when you’re not participating in said subject, you’re at least thinking or talking about it. It’s sad that conversations with people are so fucking limited because you’ve established common ground and don’t really stray off of it.

The truth is, I’m just bored of only ever talking about beer when I have so many other interests close to my heart; stuff that I’m losing the knowledge and love of because I never have anyone to talk about it with.

I love how passionate we all are about beer and how we share this; it’s special and I’ve met many good friends through my blog and obsessive tweeting about beer, but I really need to broaden my interests and get involved in other stuff because I feel that there’s no way I can develop myself as a person if beer is all I ever have to discuss with people.

Don’t worry; this isn’t the end of real beer blogging for me. I’ll probably come back to it in a few months when I feel that I’ve kicked the obsession. I’ll still do beer reviews when something comes through the post, because that’s not proper beer writing. I’m just quitting the theory of beer and thinking too much about it as a concept. You can also expect to see more musical stuff going on as that’s something I keep meaning to get onto.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this last couple of years as much as I have and I hope you can understand where I’m coming from with this.

Thanks everyone!


*These figures may not be accurate, but I’m definitely a dick.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

A Handheld Obsession

Most of us do it occasionally, but some of us are addicted. We just can't stop ourselves. We get it out when we're at home, in pubs and wherever else.

This is not a blog about wanking.

Well, it's about Craft Wanking.

Yes, I'm talking about Untappd, the social network for beer. Basically, it's an app that allows us to log and share what we're drinking with our friends. You even get badges which are like achievements, for various things, like "Drink 10 American beers" or "Drink in 5 different bars in a night".

I first downloaded it in May 2012 and didn't use it much. The first ever beer I checked in was Beck's Vier, quite hilariously.

I used it a few times after and didn't really see the point, but then in August 2012 on a drunken night out I convinced Alec to download it and it went downhill from there.

From that point on, I started checking into every beer I had. Even ones I'd had before, and managed to rack up 114 Carlings. Y'all know that number won't rise as I don't drink it anymore!

Since I started using it I've had 1628 different beers, well, that I've checked in to. That's a massive amount really, in under 2 years.

So my top 5 most drunk beers are:

1) Carling (114)
2) Brewdog Punk IPA (55) - this number surprises me actually
3) Camden Hells (38)
4) Adnams Ghost Ship
5) Oakham Citra

So mostly good beers. I did go through the Carling thing though, but we'll try ignore that!

The highest ABV beer I had was Brewdog Sink The Bismarck (41%) and to be honest, it was pretty nasty.

But the beers are irrelevant when you think about it. It's the obsession, the addiction, the need to tap and log a beer. The feeling you get when you drink something in a pub that's not a beer and are like "MY HANDS, WHAT THE FUCK DO I DO WITH MY HANDS? I CAN'T CHECK INTO A G&T".

See, that's what I was like. The need to post about each beer I drank got pretty absurd... I just couldn't have a beer without doing it and if my battery was low, I just couldn't even deal with it. No, I don't need battery to call the police if I got mugged or beaten up on my way home. I needed battery to log beers. It was pretty bad.

Don't get me wrong, it's a really handy tool to have, especially as a blogger. I can look back to when I was at a beer festival or event and find what I had so I can write about it. It's much more convenient than finding a spot to write some notes down without obstructing people.

But recently I've realised that not checking in isn't such a bad thing. Recently when I was at Craft Beer Rising, I obviously had a lot of beers but logged very little. I came to realise that even though my fellow craft wankers were pulling their phones out while having a conversation and thinking nothing of it, but I wasn't bothered. I started to realise how rude I was when checking in, especially when I was with people who don't do that kind of thing.

These days, I largely can't be bothered. I've had several beers today, all of which I've had previously but I didn't once feel the urge to check in. I'm wondering what's the point. I'm not going to stop using untappd, oh no, I'm just going to log beers I've not had before.

Checking out.


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Good Honest Craft Brewery

Well oh dear, it looks like the argument of requiring a definition of ‘craft beer’ is back in full force. To be honest, I’m not going to argue about why it is/isn’t a good/bad idea. It’s boring to be honest. Just let ‘em get on with it.

My focus is on the word ‘craft’ when attached to beer. See, I like beers from many breweries who call themselves ‘craft’ but it can get too much. You see, it’s one thing to say “We are brewing great craft beer” and another to be rubbing the fact that you are most definitely a craft brewery and nobody can say otherwise in my face.

The latter, to me, is a massive turn off.

Recently, Bateman’s Brewery has gone through a dramatic rebrand in line with the current ‘craft beer’ market trends. They’ve swapped their comfortable and traditional style ‘Good Honest Ales’ branding which gives you the image of sitting by the fire in a nice village pub, on a cold winter’s evening with what I believe to be a complete mess.
Batemans old logo

This rebrand has decided to use a cartoon image of a windmill, a frankly ridiculous font and the slogan “Craft Brewers since 1874”.

For me, this dramatic change from traditionalist to new wave branding is a complete turn off. I have been enjoying Bateman’s beers – admittedly for a lot less longer than some of you – for 6 years, since I first was able to visit pubs when I was 18. I always remember seeing the XXXB pump clip, a familiar sight from when my parents would take us to pubs when I was a kid, and finally being able to order a pint of it. The old branding and slogan of “GOOD HONEST ALES” felt warm and homely; it felt like I was a part of the Bateman’s family. I felt like they cared about me, and not their image.

This new branding feels like every previous Christmas has been amazing, you’ve got all of the presents you want, had amazing food and fun times with your family but then this Christmas arrives, you’re excited, you get downstairs and you’re told “Sorry kids, Christmas is cancelled as mummy needs a face lift to fit in with your friends’ younger mummies”.
Batemans new logo
It’s image over family values because like ‘mummy’, Batemans have been surviving and indeed thriving for 140 years without their metaphorical (and indeed literal) ‘face lift’. They don’t need to learn the slang of the younger generation, and start calling everyone “bro” or “dude” and talk about how “Awesome” everything is as much as they need to slap the word ‘craft’ on their brand.

I’m not saying in any way, shape or form that if there was an official definition of ‘craft beer’ that Bateman’s wouldn’t fit into that definition, I’m just saying that the family brewery brand is more appealing and  to myself and I’d wager many like minded consumers out there.

I’m also not saying that I’d avoid any beers with the in your face ‘craft’ branding, like Bateman’s have done. I’m just saying that it’s completely unnecessary. I think I would have been a lot more comfortable if Bateman’s would have done what many other regional breweries have and left their core range and main brand image alone, but applied the ‘craft’ branding to a range of new and experimental beers.

I just feel that good beer is good beer, whatever you call it and the word ‘craft’ slapped on a label is becoming less appealing every single day as it’s becoming overused.


Monday, 10 March 2014

2 Year Anniversary...

HOLY SHITBALLS, I've been writing this blog for TWO YEARS now.

YES, two whole years.

How have I done it? Well out of pure skill of course because I am ridiculously awesome.

What have I learnt in the last two years?

  • I don't write about food enough even though I keep promising I will.
  • I'm still more awesome than you.
  • Since February 2014 I've started to look really damn fine.
  • Beer is still awesome.
  • I'm even more picky when it comes to glassware.
  • I'm really good at playing the air guitar.
  • I'm really hungry right now.
  • I'm currently stone cold sober, but instead in a state of "FUCK YEAH!"
Thank you all for reading over the last couple of years. I hope you continue to read my blog (actually, I know you will as you've got nothing better to do except get drunk and you can do both at the same time).



Wednesday, 5 March 2014

It's Better At Home

I am a member of a Facebook group called CAMRA. Y'know, the Campaign for Real Ale? It's not an official group but a lot of the people who use it are official CAMRA types. Well, stereotypes anyway.

See, some people are alright and they'll post photos of bottled beers which you'd expect in beer groups but then there's the rest of them. "Bottled beer? Why are you not in your local pub?" they cry.

Alright, we all love the pub and we know that pubs are closing every day but it shouldn't be a a problem that we drink at home too as it's supporting the industry all the same.

See, CAMRA was never meant to be about pubs. It was meant to be about the beer. It's great that they're helping the fight in protecting out pubs but the issue is that a lot of members are missing the point. The point isn't that we're not drinking in pubs because I can assure you that we are. The point is that we're supporting the beer industry, and we're supporting small businesses by buying from them.

As I'm sure you'll appreciate, drinking in pubs is expensive and I'm sure most of us can't afford to do it all the time. I mean like, we can't afford to drink in pubs whenever we want a drink, plus it's a load of effort. Especially for me anyway. If I'm at home on a Sunday and want a beer, I'd rather pop to the shop to buy a bunch of Adnams Explorer to drink beer at home than either go to the hideous pub across the road from the shop or walk 20 minutes to my nearest pub that has good beer and a good atmosphere.

Another issue is that I can get beers to drink at home that I can't drink anywhere else. Well, not for a reasonable price anyway. Pubs may sell some bottles but at a massive mark up to meet the margins they need in order to survive and most of us can't handle that. They may argue that you couldn't get this particular bottle plus postage for less than what they're selling it at, but that's missing the point as when you order online you'll order in bulk and therefore the cost is spread across each bottle.

And then there are the times that you don't want to be in a public setting but you want a beer. Sometimes you just want to sit the fuck back, watch some crap on Netflix and drink a beer. You can't do that in a pub. Actually you could, but you'd look like a total dick really and you're just generally being a dick as you're hogging all of the bandwidth when others want to use the internet.

The point is that drinking beer at home isn't bad, despite what some deluded fucks say. I need to make it clear that this isn't an attack on CAMRA, it's an attack on people who largely seem to be CAMRA members who think that if you don't constantly go to the pub to drink you're the spawn of Satan.

Well I'm drinking a beer at home and I fucking love it.


Sunday, 2 March 2014

Sixpoint Brewery and Wetherspoons

Recently British pub chain JD Wetherspoons have been inviting an American brewery over to the UK every month to brew one of their beers at a British brewery, to be sold exclusively within the chain. Well Sixpoint Brewery from Brooklyn in New York have visited Adnams a couple of times now to brew Bengali Tiger IPA & Righteous Ale, both of which were delicious.

Last week we got some brilliant news... Wetherspoons are going to import cans of 3 Sixpoint beers to be sold exclusively within their pubs, starting from Wednesday 5th of March.

I was lucky enough to be sent a can of each to sample so I figured I'd give you all a sneak preview so you can get as excited as I am!

Sixpoint are one of the revolutionary new breweries who choose to use cans to package their beer instead of bottles. Cans are the best way to package your beer, aside from cask and keg as unlike bottles, no light or oxygen can get into the beer to contaminate it. The trouble is, they have a stigma that's associated with super strength lager, and the fact that people claim that you can taste the metal which is a load of bollocks.

I decided to start with The Crisp, which is a 5.4% Pilsner. Very clean pilsner malt aroma, along with some citrus fruits which carry through into the flavour. It has a very long and dry finish, which I think will be great in the summer sun. Essentially it does what it says on the tin... it's crisp.

Sweet Action came next, which is a 5.2% Cream Ale and it smells like toffee. When you taste you've got orange marmalade and toffee with some fresh double cream and a sprinkling of white pepper.

Finally we have Bengali Tiger which is a 6.4% IPA. I had this on cask in Wetherspoons before and somehow managed about 6 pints in a night as it's so delicious, which means this was the can I was most excited for. On the nose you've got freshly baked bread, Greek yogurt and some grapefruit. Upon tasting, you've got more of that fresh bread with some bitter grapefruit and some honey to add some sweetness. I love it and I think this will be the one I buy most frequently!


Basically, all 3 of these beers are stunning and regardless of what you think of chain pubs, it's brilliant that such a large company is doing its best to make amazing foreign beer a normality in the UK as well as promoting our own thriving real ale scene.

Massive thanks to Eddie Gershon PR & JD Wetherspoons for sending me these cans to sample!