Shepherd Neame Barley Wine

Bottle conditioned with perfect carbonation
Shepherd Neame Barley Wine [baron rating 5/5] - 10% dark amber ale,boozy port smell,dark treacle gingery sweet bourbon taste,mellow finish
Listen to what Chris and the Baron have to say about it

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Thank you to John Humphreys (@ShepherdNeame) from Shepherd Neame for sending this through for a baron rating!

Buy Shepherd Neame ales direct

Salopian Kinetic

Bottle conditioned with lively carbonation
Salopian Kinetic [baron rating 5/5] - 6.5% copper ale,all citrus fruits esp blood orange smell,zingy zesty bitter taste,fruity bitter finish
Listen to what Chris, Stephen and the Baron have to say about it

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Thank you to Jake (@SalopianBrewery) from Salopian Brewery for sending this through for a baron rating!

Buy Salopian ales from Holborn Ales

Looking forward to hosting Ales By Mail's live twitter tasting featuring Okell's ales

On Wednesday evening at 8pm I'll be hosting the next live twitter tasting for Ales By Mail. They got in touch a couple of weeks ago and asked if I was familar with Okell's and would I like to run the session.I am quite familiar with Okell's, the Isle of Man's largest brewery as I've been to the IOM a number of times, and make a point of hunting out some cask pints of Olaf or MPA (two fantastically tasty sub-4% ales). My initial pick of Okell's bottled range was Aile & 1907 but supply issues of 1907 meant that we've gone with my backup plan of their IPA.

Nice clean branded bottles and a lovely pint glass!

Okell's Brewery
  • IPA - 4.5% "extremely light-coloured beer with a surprising full-bodied taste. The sweetness is offset by a very strong hopping rate. That gives the finished beer an overall roundness with very spicy, lemony notes and a fine dry finish to counteract the initial sweetness"
  • Aile - 4.7% smoked porter, "Aile is the Manx Celtic word for Fire and this crafted Okell's beer has delicate, smokey aromas derived from the careful addition of peated malt. This malt is made from selected barley that uses burning peat during the malting process"
If you've taken advantage of the free bottle codes then I'm looking forward to you joining me at 8pm on Wednesday night as we walk through the two beers, I plan to start with the lighter IPA and then move into the slightly stronger in alcohol but much stronger in taste Aile.

If you've got them in the fridge (I have), make sure to take them both out around 15 minutes before we start, you want the IPA to be coldish and refreshing but not so cold that the subtle balanced of flavours is lost, make sure the Aile comes out at the same time as you want that to be a bit warmer to really let those peated smokey aromas open up.

See you on Twitter at 8pm Wednesday, please use the hashtag #beerybits so that we can all follow along and see what everyone is posting. Oh and make sure you are following @AlesByMail as not only will they be joining in but they might be running some competitions as well! Also you might like to follow @OkellsAles which is the account for Dr. Mike Cowbourne, head brewer at Okells who will be joining us online for the evening.

Thanks to Chrissie Saunders from Ales By Mail for asking if I would like to host the tasting session and sending through the bottles and glassware.

Looking forward to baron rating Salopian Kinetic

The next in Salopian's brown bottle range is KiNETiC, this was announced via Twitter a couple of days ago that it was now available in bottles and Jake from Salopian kindly sent a 'care package' through to Baron Towers:

Salopian Brewery
Look out for a 'baron rating' for this Salopian Brewery beer soon, and a big thank you to Jake (@SalopianBrewery) for sending it through to me!

Buy Salopian ales from Holborn Ales

Salopian Sentinel

Bottle conditioned with perfect carbonation
Salopian Sentinel [baron rating 5/5] - 8.4% amber ale,citrus tropical fruit smell,fruity syrupy resin spicy taste,dusty bitter resin finish
Listen to what Chris and the Baron have to say about it

Subscribe in iTunes
Thank you to Jake (@SalopianBrewery) from Salopian Brewery for sending this through for a baron rating!

Buy Salopian ales from Holborn Ales

Kernel London Sour

Bottle conditioned with perfect carbonation
Kernel London Sour [baron rating 5/5] - 2.5% pale gold ale,wheaty mild sulphur smell,sour lemon gooseberry taste,lasting sour apple finish
Listen to what Chris and the Baron have to say about it

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Thank you to Paul Kruzycki from Ales By Mail for sending this through for a baron rating!

Buy Kernel ales from Ales By Mail

Looking forward to baron rating these Beer 52 ales

Beer52 were one of the companies involved in this years European Beer Bloggers Conference offering a sample box to all attendees (awesome!). The offer a Craft Beer Discovery Club, sending you a selection (8 bottles) of quality ales every month. My box arrived well-packed today, here is what was inside:

  • Black Wolf Coulls - 4.2% smooth, contemporary, premium craft lager. Chill for a while and savour the crisp, fresh and peachy flavours
  • Brewers & Union Steph Weiss - 5% weissbier
  • Cumberland Corby Fox - 4.7% full bodied deep reddish brown ale. Smooth with lots of soft fruit flavours
  • Einstok Icelandic Pale Ale - 5.6% pale ale, three kinds of hops combine with pure Icelandic water to create our version of the Pale Ale, where robust flavour meets smooth malt. Cascade hops give it the American character, while Northern Brewer and Hallertau Tradition add just enough bitterness to make this ale refreshingly Icelandic
  • Einstok Icelandic White Ale - 5.2% white ale
  • Hillside Centurion - 7% American IPA
  • Killer Cat Manga - 5% 
  • Highland Orkney IPA - 4.8% IPA, two malts and six different hops compliment each other to create a flavour that is greater than the sum of its parts. Unlike most modern IPAs this has actually been on a sea voyage, albeit only across the Pentland Firth from Orkney
There was also an excellent info pack in the box, giving lots of details about the beers (more than was on some of the labels - see above).

Look out for 'baron ratings' of these beers soon, and a big thank you to Siobhan from Beer52 for sending them through to me!

Buy all these ales from Beer52

Looking forward to baron rating Natural Selection's Mutiny on the Beagle

Jonathan from Natural Selection Brewing got in touch with me via twitter last week asking if I would like to try their new beer, here's a bit of information about them and their beers:

Natural Selection Brewing is a project involving 5 Masters students at the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling in collaboration with Stewart Brewing here in Edinburgh. The project is now in year 4 and involves the creation of a production-scale batch of beer (80HL this year) from the first idea to test batches, scale up, marketing, events and sales.

This year we have brewed a 5.8% IPA called "Mutiny on the Beagle", hopped solely with British hop varieties from the past 20 years. We wanted to brew a beer that reflected the classic beer style that would have been popular in Charles Darwin's time but which used used newer hop varieties, including a big dry hop of a new Charles Faram 2013 developmental hop, Olicana. What we ended up with was a beer that is both classic in it's inspiration but modern in it's interpretation. Expect notes of orange marmalade, pine needles and lime cordial, with a lingering bitterness and some toffee malt characteristics that are distinctively British.

Natural Selection Brewing

  • Mutiny on the Beagle - 5.8% seafaring India Pale Ale brewed using 100% British hops with notes of pine, orange marmalade and lime peel
Look out for 'baron ratings' of this beer soon, and a big thank you to Jonathan from Natural Selection Brewing for sending it through to me!

A Night with Franciscan Well Brewery

One of my highlights of the Beer Bloggers Conference weekend was the Saturday evening meal hosted by Franciscan Well Brewery. Back in January 2013 this Cork-founded brewery received backing from Molson Coors (who were one of the conference main sponsors). They decided to host a four-course meal of food matched with their beers.

We were welcomed with a half of Rebel Red, a nice red ale with good balance but to be honest was a little lacking in both maltiness or hoppiness, very much a 'regular session beer' rather than anything else (not that there's anything wrong with a session beer that doesn't attack your senses too much).

The starter was very nice, deep fried calamari dusted in wasabi & sesame flour, served with a seasonal leaf salad, sweet chilli & aioli dips. This was paired with Friar Weisse, a very nice, quite gentle weissebier with a nice amount of creaminess and banana - nothing too powerful but worked nicely with the calamari. One thing that wasn't needed was the sweet chilli dip - it was too powerful a flavour for the subtle flavours of the calamari and ended up also overpowering the delicate aspects of the weissebier.

Main course was a dry-aged Hereford beef burger topped with Cashel blue cheese, beef tomato, gherkin, baby gem lettuce on a lightly toasted Brioche bap with hand cut chips. This was paired Chieftain IPA. Chieftain IPA is a lovely IPA, good maltiness, great bitter finish but with excellent balance considering it retained it's solid bitterness all the way through. The beer was a nice match for the blue cheese burger but unfortunately the burger was too thick and too dry, a burger half the size would have worked much better, it was just too 'meaty'. My bun & salad was soggy from the burger juices and the flavours were overpoweredy by the thick chunk of blue cheese, which was an intentional aspect of the meal (it was mentioned by the brewer in his speech about the dish). The beer was lovely, the burger was not so.

Dessert was quite a spectacle though!  Multiple piles of profiteroles were carried through, each flaming with a firework/sparkler/fiery thing on top, once they were placed on a table all in a line they were quite something! The crouchenbouche were drizzled with toffee & chocolate (not sure if drizzled was the right word, I prefer "covered"). This was paired with their Shandon Stout - a nice creamy Irish stout with good coffee and chocolate notes.

The digestif was a plate of colourful homemade chocolate macaroons paired with Franciscan Well's Shandon Stout but given a twist - aged in Jameson whisky casks. The beer was stunning, a superb blend of tasty stout which has just the right amount of whisky bite (and I'm not a fan of too much whisky in my beers, I can't stand spirits in any shape or fashion).

It was an excellent evening, each course was introduced by Franciscan Well's founder & brewer Shane Long, who appeared initially to be rather shy but after a couple of courses started to share more about how the beer was brewed and it's background and came across as a very open and honest guy.

Thank you so much to Molson Coors, Franciscan Well & The Church venue as well as the organisers of the Beer Bloggers Conference. My favourite beers of the evening were the Chieftain IPA and the Jameson stout - both were excellent but balanced in a great way (I even asked for an additional glass of the IPA as I'd enjoyed the first one far too quickly...).

Looking forward to baron rating these Ales By Mail beers

The start of new month this time meant a new box of tasty ales to review thanks to the very kind people over at Ales By Mail.They gave me discount voucher to spend in their wide and varied 'pick & mix' range and here's what I picked to review:

The cans look small but hold the same as the bottle - 330ml
  • BrewDog Jack Hammer - 7.2% west coast india pale ale. This IPA is bitter. Very bitter. (continue usual BrewDog bottle speil)
  • Beavertown 8 Ball Rye IPA - 6.2% (that's all from the label)
  • Beavertown Neck Oil Session IPA - 4.3% (that's all from the label)
  • Bristol Beer Factory Saison - 6.5% classic Belgian summer ale, bursting with flavour. The Saison yeast gives smooth fruity notes and it is rounded off with spicy European hops
  • Bristol Beer Factory Ultimate Stout - 7.5%, strong black, unctuous and delicous. Hints of coffee, chocolate & dark fruits, made using a Belgian yeast & roasted malts
  • De Molen Vuur & Vlam - 6.2% IPA-ish strong beer, hopped with premiant, galena, cascade, chinook, simcoe & amarillo hops
  • Kernel London Sour - 2.5% contains wheat (that's all from the label)
A stack of craft cans
Fourpure Brewery
  • Amber Ale - 5.1% amber ale inspired by Colorado, USA (that's all from the label)
  • IPA - 6.5% IPA inspired by Oregon, USA (that's all from the label)
  • Pale Ale - 5% pale ale inspired by California, USA (that's all from the label)
  • Pils - 4.7% Pils inspired by Munich Germany (that's all from the label)
  • Session IPA - 4.2% inspired by New York, USA (that's all from the label)
Look out for 'baron ratings' of these beers soon, and a big thank you to Chrissie Saunders (Blogger Outreach & Online Communities) from Ales By Mail for sending these through to me!

I'm a big fan of these craft cans, here are a few 'arty' shots that I took :-/

Buy all these ales from Ales By Mail

Little Valley Hebden's Wheat

Bottle conditioned with OK carbonation
Little Valley Hebden's Wheat [baron rating 2/5] - 4.5% gold ale,mild orange smell,citrus spicy coriander taste,thin dry grainy finish
Note: I had hoped for more carbonation from this considering it was meant to be a wheat beer
Thank you to Drew for getting me this for my birthday!

Brains Organ Morgan

Not bottle conditioned
Brains Organ Morgan [baron rating 3/5] - 4% gold ale,mild satsuma smell,mild spicy juicy citrus taste,bittersweet slightly watery finish
Thank you to whoever got me this for my birthday!

Liverpool Craft White Fox

Bottle conditioned with lively but expected carbonation
Liverpool Craft White Fox [baron rating 5/5] - 6.3% gold beer,wheat lemon cloves smell,creamy bitter lemon taste,fading tangy lemony finish
Note: This is a wheat beer and so the lively carbonation is fully expected, in fact if it hadn't been there I would have been disappointed.
Buy Liverpool Craft ales from Holborn Ales

McGargles Granny Mary's Red Ale

Not bottle conditioned
McGargles Granny Mary's Red Ale [baron rating 3/5] - 4.4% ruby ale,mild caramel dried fruit smell,balanced dried fruit taste,biscuit finish

An insider's look at the Irish Beer Industry by Dean McGuinness

He's Newstalk's beer guy, beer importer & brewer, beer talker & educator, and is @BeerMessiah on twitter.

Ireland is probably around the level of the US beer industry in the 1990s, it's in its 'adolescence' phase. It's learning from others, following the successes and learning from mistakes that have happened to others.

Nice chocolate touch but got a bit much
Brewing in lreland dates back millennia, 19th century they had many local breweries, supported by local bottlers & distributors. In 1928 they formed the Wholesale Bottlers Association SDBBA, later BCI. During the 20th century consolidation of the industry happened, breweries closed and the whole market changed resulting in less choice for beer drinkers.

Thwaites 13 Guns & Black Sheep Progress were used as examples of modern-styled beers brewed by breweries which have been around a long time but continue to adapt to the challenges that face a brewery in an everchanging marketplace.

Black Sheep Brewery was 'born' at the same time as the Irish craft beer industry, in the early 90s. They focus on quality, heritage & approach. They have a new small pilot brewery allowing them to produce alternatives to their steady core range.

Marc's Chocolate Bock is part of a new beer range from Maisel, 7.5% powerful stout with dark chocolate notes and a warming finish. This was used as an example of where a brewery is pushing in a new direction, it's from a German brewer but doesn't conform to their Rheinheitsgebot tradition due to the addition of chocolate in the brewing process.

We need to insist on choice - diversity is good. We need to teach and be taught, don't be afraid to ask. Respect a beer's heritage, many Belgian brewers use adjuncts and we need to value breweries who maintain heritage.

McGargles Ned's India Pale Ale

Not bottle conditioned
McGargles Ned's India Pale Ale [baron rating 3/5] - 6.5% amber ale,acetone smell,spicy waxy caramel taste,long bittersweet finish