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Archive for the ‘Beer festival’ Category

ALE for SAIL 2011 is a fantastic attempt to replicate one of the brewing world’s great adventures

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ALE for SAIL 2011 is a fantastic attempt to replicate one of the brewing world’s great adventures.

From the heart of London to the centre of Saint Petersburg… this has to be the most epic journey a drayman has made for 200 years!”

Brilliant Beer’s Tim O’Rourke is the man behind the initiative take Imperial Stouts to St Petersburg in Russia.

The Ale4Sail Great Baltic Adventure – www.thegreatbalticadventure.com – is an ambitious attempt not just to recreate the epic sea journey made by beers from England to Russia in the 18th century, but to promote British cask beers at festivals in Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen.

The plan is to take 12 specially brewed Imperial Russian Stouts, each produced by a different brewer, all the way to Saint Petersburg, where they will be judged in a beer festival on 18 June to find out which stout is fit for the Court of Catherine the Great.

The 12 Imperial Stouts making the journey will be announced later this month.

The sea journey starts on 15 May from Greenwich and arrives in St Petersburg on 17 June.

Tim O’Rourke says he is looking for people to crew the Thermopylae Clipper which will undertake the journey. “We have chartered a former 60 foot round the world Clipper Thermopylae. This fantastic yacht has already circumnavigated the world four times in the Clipper Round the World Races so should see us safely to Saint Petersburg.”

The passage includes on board food and safety and wet weather equipment as well as a professional skipper and two professional watch leaders.

The passage will take five weeks with stopovers in a major city every Saturday when we will be able to change crew. There will be stops at intermediate ports on the way round.

Participants will be able to take part in Beer Festivals at all the Major Ports:

London – Beer Festival in the Old Brewery – Greenwich – 12 – 15 May

Copenhagen Beer Festival – Beer festival in Charlie’s Bar -27 – 29 May with a chance to visit and have lunch at Carlsberg’s Jacobson’s Brewery.

Stockholm – Beer festival in Oliver Twist & Akkurat Restaurant for the week commencing 3rd June

Helsinki – To be arranged – 10 – 12 June

Saint Petersburg – To be arranged 17 – 19 June and there will be the judging of all the Imperial Russian Stout by a panel of brewers including Russian brewers.

To join for all or a part of the voyage please contact tim@brilliantbeer.com or register on line at www.thegreatbalticadventure.com

Imperial Stout, also known as Russian Imperial Stout or Imperial Russian Stout, is a strong dark beer or stout in the style that was brewed in the 18th century in London, for export to the Court of Catherine II of Russia.

From then, and right through the First World War, Imperial Russian Stout was shipped to the Baltic, often in large wooden barrels called hogsheads, containing 54 gallons of beer, where it was bottled by a company called Le Coq and sold in St Petersburg and other Russian cities.

Originally brewed by the Thrale’s brewery in London the beer later became known as Barclay Perkins Imperial Brown Stout. When the Barclay Perkins brewery was taken over by Courage the beer was renamed Courage Imperial Russian Stout. It used to be sold in Britain in small nip sized 17cl bottles.

Imperial Stouts often have an alcohol content of nine or ten per cent ABV. In the early 20th century the beer was awarded the Royal Warrant of the Court of Catherine II of Russia for donating 5,000 bottles to various hospitals in which the Empress had taken an interest.

 

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Written by timhampson

February 21, 2011 at 9:08 am

Turf Tavern, Oxford – a “heart-warming oasis”

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The Turf offers an education in intoxication

One of my favourite pubs in Oxford has been dubbed as a “heart-warming oasis and named Britain’s town pub of the year by the Good Pub Guide 2011.

The Turf is a historic pub located just outside the Oxford city walls. It is a village pub in the heart of a city. With foundations dating back to the 14th century, its city centre location makes it a favourite for both town and gown. The Turf is probably Oxford’s oldest pub. The current timbered front part is seventeenth century when it was progressively a malthouse, a cider house and finally an inn (circa 1790), called the Spotted Cow. It was renamed the Turf Tavern in 1805 and thus it remains to the present. The pub has been frequented by the fictional character Inspector Morse and President Bill Clinton, and some would claim that it is the “obscure and low-beamed tavern up a court” visited by Jude Fawley in Hardy’s Jude the Obscure – although this pub is later referred to as the Lamb and Flag.

The Turf is owned and managed by Greene King and even though its corporate hand has clearly touched the pub, it is to their credit that it has such a free-wheeling atmosphere and a wide variety of ales from many brewers.

Hard to find, the Turf is worth the search

There must be an art in finding the Turf, which is seemingly hidden away down labyrinthine alleys in the heart of Oxford’s ancient colleges. The inside is low beamed and quirky at the front – leading through to a clutter of small rooms. The outside of the pub seems bigger than the inside for it comprises several twisting passageways and courtyards covered in awnings, which are warmed in the evenings by heaters. Here students, tourists and locals sit, stand and vie for space in this busy pub.

Yes it does get crowded, yes it is very popular, yes the wait at the bar can seem too long and yes sometimes the staff are almost overwhelmed, but even the most perfect pearl has imperfections. But, as one student says to a friend as he walks into the bar, “doesn’t this place make you want to have a pint, it’s just perfect”.

The Turf is popular with students, tourists and locals

Turf Tavern, 7 Bath Place, Oxford

01865 243235

www.theturftavern.co.uk

Written by timhampson

October 3, 2010 at 10:22 am

Bamberg – can there be a better place in the world to drink beer?

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Bamberg's Old Town Hall, which seems precariously balanced on an ancient bridge.

Bamberg is a beautiful, Baroque, island city, on the banks of the River Regnitz, and the Main-Donau canal is in Upper Franconia, Bavaria. It is built on medieval foundations and is home to 70,000 people and 11 breweries.

The city is a base for many United States Army personnel and their families – and they no doubt have helped take the fame of this beer paradise around the world.

Many of Bamberg’s beers have a smoky secret. To malt a cereal the grain has to begin to germinate, converting complicated sugars into simpler ones, which then can be broken down even further in the mash tun. But the process has to be stopped before it goes too far and the grain’s goodness is lost to the brewer.

Heat is normally used to arrest germination, but in Franconia, maltsters developed a smoky technique of stopping the grain’s growth.

The germinating grain is heated over beech wood fires, which imparts marvellous wood fire, peaty textures to the finished beers.

Schlenkerla (Dominikanerstrasse 6 www.smokebeer.com ) is a vibrant, friendly bar and restaurant and Bamberg’s best known. The warmth of its world famous rauchbier, with its smoked whisky and cheese overtones is as warm as the welcome. Tables are often shared and people soon embrace in the comfort of conversation and the language of laughter. Beer is the social lubricant and the perfect accompaniment to the robust Bavarian dishes – onions stuffed with beery meatballs is a particular favourite.

Two doors down is the Ambräusianum (Dominikanerstr. 10 www.ambraeusianum.de ). Here the brewing vessels can been seen, which makes it seem more like a modern brew pub than one of Bamberg’s traditional establishments, well it is a relative newcomer being opened in 2004. Weekend breakfasts are a special treat – a glass of wheat beer with three locally made Bavarian veal sausages and a pretzel.

Beer has been brewed at Klosterbrau (Oberre Muhlbruck 3) since 1533. Down a cobbled street, time seems to slip away in this fairy tale of a brewery tap. The range includes a schwarzbier, braunbier, weizen, pils and a bock.

The river and its pretty walks is never faraway in Bamberg and the stroll to the Spezial passes the spectacular medieval stone and timbered Old Town Hall, which seems precariously balanced on an ancient bridge. Max Platz which is off Gruner Market is a square of elegant and genteel proportions.

The Brauerei Spezial’s–(Obere Königstrasse 10 – is a locals bar decorated with laughter and conversations. Its Spezial Rrauchbeer has subtle, soft toffee flavours and even a hint of burnt straw. Spezial uses smoked malt in at least four other of its beers. By the bar is a serving hatch, where locals come to fill containers with beer, for drinking at home.

Directly opposite is the Brauerei Fässla (Obere Königsstraße 19-21 www.faessla.de ). Brewing started here in 1649 and the pub has a comfortable wood panelled country style room. The brewery’s logo, a dwarf rolling a barrel of beer, decorates the glasses and dark furniture. Its Lagerbier is easy drinking and melds malty flavours with a fresh, soft bitterness. It is also home to a small, hotel.

The exterior of the Weinstube Pizzini (Ober Sandstrasse 17) is somewhat unprepossessing, and do not be deterred by its name, it is neither a wine bar nor a pizza restaurant. Inside this small, brown decorated and time worn bar, there is warm hearted welcome and the opportunity to try Fassla and Spezial beers as well as a Dunkel from Andechser.

Bamberg’s other breweries

Greifenklau (Laurenziplatz 20; Kaiserdom (Breitackerstrase 9 www.Kaiserdom.de; Kneesmann (Wunderburg 5 ); Mahr’s Brau (Wunderburgh 10; Robesbierre (Oberer Stephansberg 49).

The Bamberg Tourist office (Geyserwörthstr. 3, www.bamberg.info ) has an excellent guide to all city’s breweries.

Written by timhampson

September 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Sometimes they just ask the wrong question.

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So when was the first beer brewed?

“So who knows when the first beer was brewed?”

I’m not sure if our guide Eva Kočková at the Pilsner Brewery museum knew who she was asking. I was in the company of three of the country‘s best beer writers – Peter Brown, Mark Dredge and Adrian Tierney Jones. Beer writers are a bit like economists – get three together and you will have at least four different opinions.

The craft of brewing is as old as civilization. Between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago, some people discontinued their nomadic hunting and gathering and settled down to farm. Grain was the first domesticated crop that started that farming process.

Through hieroglyphics, cuneiform characters and written accounts, some historians have traced the roots of brewing back to ancient African, Egyptian and Sumerian tribes. Here, the oldest proven records of brewing are about 6,000 years old and refer to the Sumerians or Mesopotamia as Eva told us.

However there is some evidence from  China which shows brewing took place more than 8,000 years ago. And in South America there is evidence of some early civilisations, pre-Columbus, making a fermented drink made from corn. In truth we will never know, but it seems fair to assume that brewing like the use of fire could have developed almost simultaneously in different parts of the world.

Na Parkane, a good place to enjoy a beer and some dumplings

The excellent Pilsen Brewery Museum is housed in an old 15th century maltings, one of the many which were once found in this brewing town. It includes a gothic malt house, a mock-up of the laboratory used by the man credited with developing Pilsner style beers Josef Groll and on the remains of the city walls outside, which kept enemies at bay for centuries, there are small plots of barley and hops.

It really is a pleasant place to wile away an hour or so.

On special days actors create scenes from Pilsens beery history, including the improbable tale of the ale connor – a myth which too can be found in many British accounts of the history of beer. According to legend, the quality of beer was judged by the stickiness of beer and whether the ale connor’s leather breeches stuck to a beer soaked bench. The more the trousers stuck, the better the beer. Well it is a good story.

Hard hats are a necessity for the undergound tour

Underneath, a separate tour, for which hard hats are obligatory winds through a 800m labyrinth of narrow tunnels, linking streets and houses. Hewn from the soft sandstone the first tunnels date from 1290.Here can be seen some of the 360 original wells from which brewers drew water to make beer. The temperature is 7’C perfect for lagering. Here too, the citizens sought refuge when the town was under siege.

Josef Groll's laboratory is recreated in the museum

And to end the tour, what could be better than to visit the adjacent Na Parkene pub for a glass of dark, unfiltered beer, and of course some dumplings. Potato or bread?

http://www.plzenskepodzemi.cz/en/

Join the search for the Welsh John Barleycorn as Hay on Wye become Beer on Wye

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The town of Hay on Wye on the English and Welsh border is world renowned for its literary festival. But now it is having a rival ale and beer books weekend – 24-26 September – at Kilvert’s pub in Bear Street.

Organiser Ed Davies says he has arranged for some of the country’s best beer writers to come and talk about their work.

Hops and Glory author and beer writer of the year Pete Brown will describe his three month journey from Burton Trent to India in the company of a cask of IPA.

You get two pints for the price one when Adrian Tierney-Jones (1001 Beer You must Try Before you Die) and myself (The Beer Book) debate which are best – ales from North Wales or the South.

Melissa Cole will take the “beard out of beer” and lead a tasting for the ladies and a beer and food matching. And if all of this is not enough, Zak Avery, author of 500 Beers, will describe some of his favourite brews.

From the Wye Valley Brewery Peter and Vernon Amor (brewers of Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout) will be giving readings from the Dorothy Goodbody stories and Breconshire Brewery’s head brewer Buster Grant will talk about the future of beer in the Principality.

Should you tire of the beer, there will be talks and readings by several local authors and poets. And if you want something that goes with a bang the Sealed Knot’s Hay Garrison will be firing their muskets. More than 50 different Welsh ales will be available at the festival.

Tweet it, blog it, tell people about it. Go to www.thehaybrewery.co.uk/festival for more information.

Hop to it – let’s hear it for the beer

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Extravagant costumes are enhanced with garlands of hops

Beer is the national drink of the Britain, but how well do we support it?

Burton on Trent is one of the world’s great brewing towns, yet get off at its station or even drive into the town and few would realise the significance of the place to beer, not just in this country but worldwide. It is even home to the National Brewing Centre, which has barely scratched the national consciousness.

However, in the Kent town of Faversham, on the first weekend of September is held a raucous celebration of the hop, which spills over the town’s streets and pubs.

Morris dancers are adorned with hops

The two day festival, which I attended yesterday, was a vibrant celebration of beer and its natural roots. The festival is a celebration of the hop harvest and the heyday of hop picking, when thousands of Londoners came down to the Kent Hop-Gardens every September for a so-called “country holiday with pay”. Life in London was probably pretty tough if people found picking hops a holiday. Many families returned to the same farms, generation after generation, to be joined by every available local worker to form the largest agricultural workforce this country has ever seen.

Children get in on the act too

But a row over funding has threatened the future of the festival, as thousands of visitors thronged the town’s streets. It would be shame if the festival is lost – it provides a link between one of the natural raw materials that makes beer and of course the pubs where people drink it. Street corners and pavements become theatres for dance groups and musicians. Vendors sell bines of hops and many people wear garlands of hop cones. Pub gardens become rock gardens and crowds move from pub to pub to hear their favourite bands or look for something different.

Even the dogs join in the hop celebration

And of course there is beer – beautiful beer. I tried Shepherd Neame’s Master Brew Bitter. Not too strong at 3.7 per cent ABV, and full of rich robust citrus aromas, a deep bitterness and long, lingering finish from the use of the Kent grown hops.

The hop has bought the area much employment and wealth and the festival helps cement the link between the town’s brewer Shepherd Neame, farming, the harvest with its influx of workers from London and the impact that beer has upon our culture.

Pearly kings and queens from London sing out their songs

The festival costs a lot of money to run and of course there is a good argument that says why should a local council fund it?

But beer has shaped our culture – our art, literature and music. Taking a sip of beer is much more than just drinking alcohol, to understand the importance of beer we need to keep its links with the past. We lose these bonds at our peril.

www.thehopfestival.co.uk

Written by timhampson

September 6, 2010 at 8:41 am

Places I’d like to be – Hotel Purkmistr, Pilsen for the third Sun beer festival

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Purkmistr - one of the Czech Republic's new wave of breweries

On the outskirts of Pilsen in the Czech Republic is the Hotel Purkmistr, where a brewery opened in 2007. On a visit last weekend it was a marvel to try their beers. The range includes an unfiltered pale lager, a cherry beer and an interesting Cappuccino flavoured beer.

The hotel's bar is large, spacious and dominated by two copper kettles,

The restaurant food is particularly good with many Czech speciality dishes on the menu. In the English translation one is described as “breast of a brewery shepherdess”. It comprised chicken, cranberries and blue cheese. Now using the word “breast” is as guaranteed to make an Englishman laugh as the word “bottom”. “No that is no mistranslation” said our host – Jan Mlcak from, Czech Tourism and revealing a Rabelaisian streak he said, “In the Czech menu we use the word “tits”. And the dish will look like its description.” So guess where the cranberries will go?

However, I would love to be back there on 18 September as it is to host what Czech beer expert Evan Rail http://www.facebook.com/evanrail, tells me is the best beer festival in the Czech Republic.

There is plenty of space in the garden

More than 140 beers, many from the new wave of Czech brewing will be there as will the innovative Scottish brewer Brew Dog. But interestingly, perhaps the sleeping giant of German brewing could be waking up, as several brewers from the Bamberg area will be making the trip across the border.

For years most of Germany’s brewing industry has been an enigma – for a country with more than 1,000 breweries it is deeply conservative. Yes there are some marvellous regional specialities – Raunchier, alt, the bitter sweet brews from Berlin. But while brewers in America, Italy, Denmark, the UK and now the Czech Republic (just to name some of the countries involved) have embarked on a journey to push beer to new heights. German breweries have stuck with what they know best. Undoubtedly good, but sometimes one yearns for something more – something which assails and caresses the taste buds. Evan tells me that increasingly brewers from Czech Republic and Germany are beginning to swap ideas and develop new brews.

Petr Mic, in front of the brewery's four open fermenters, he says "Euro-Beer tastes all the same"- he wants to do something different.

Sadly I cannot make the 18 September, but next year’s event takes place on 17 September. I might just write it in my diary now.

Hotel Purkmistr, Selská náves 21/2,326 00 Plzeň – Černice

http://www.purkmistr.cz/

Written by timhampson

September 3, 2010 at 11:03 am