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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

Some beers are so good on first sip that “wow” is the only acceptable description. Windsor & Eton’s Black IPA. It’s a cracker. WOW

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My day had started early, when as I was leaving to take my dogs for a walk and I find a Range Rover was parked across my drive and some strange guy was standing with two bottles of beer in hand. “Here, I have bought you these to try”, says the driver. As Ry Cooder would say “It’s a strange world.”

But, after a long day of news writing the contents of one of the bottles was the perfect end to the day,

Conqueror – it is an awesome brew. It has a fabulous nose. But what gives it that and what is it hopped with? I get a floral, fruity taste from it – what gives it that? The conditioning is fantastic. What yeast is the brewer using? And what is a Black IPA?

Well let Paddy Johnson the brewer, who it turned out was my mysterious visitor at the start of the day tell his own story.

“In the tradition  of a Black IPA it’s brewed mainly with Cascade but also Summit. The yeast was recommended by fellow brewer’s within London Brewer’s Alliance for this type of beer. It is a American yeast known for its cleanness which we want with such a rich beer.

“Black IPA is a relatively new style developed in particular by the Craft Brewers of the US. Those of us daft enough to go for it are trying to produce a beer that is still fundamentally an IPA in strength, dryness, bitterness and hop aroma but with a full roasted malt character that still leaves the beer very drinkable.”

“This is a cask beer that we launched just two weeks ago. So proud of it we got our friends at Kernel brewery to bottles with us one Kilderkin so we could give friends a taste if they couldn’t get to a pub.”

Paddy says it is always likely to be a specialist beer. Having said that sales are taking off and the Bree Louise at Euston is stocking it.

This beer’s name Conqueror was chosen by the brewery’s 2,000 FaceBook fans. It uses five different specialist malts and is hopped at three completely different parts of the process to achieve its full hoppy character.

If you see it try it.

www.webrew.co.uk

Written by timhampson

November 19, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Oh to be in Manchester on a Twissup

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So where would I like to be today? Manchester.

The Olde Wellington was moved to its current site on giant wheels

A group of beer writers who are tweeters, well I suppose I can call myself a tweeter now. The old boundaries between the paper and electronic mediums have collapsed like the Berlin Wall did in November 1989. We are all communicators now.

The Twissup group is going to Manchester today and then on to Huddersfield. I am afraid, I cannot spare the time, horses need to be fed and a daughter is returning from Argentina where she has been a contestant on Total Wipeout and I need to pick her up from the airport.

When I was filming for a television programme about 18 months ago, a cock-up by the production team meant a 24 hour trip to Manchester resulted in a four day stay. It gave me a great opportunity to experience just some of the city’s great bars and pubs.

The ornate tiling is a delight

I sure those on the Twissup don’t need my advice on pubs to go to, but some of my personal favourites in Manchester city’s centre which I would love to visit again include the Marble Arch, on the Rochdale Road. A marvellous classic tiled Victorian gem which sells beers from the fantastic Marble brewery. It also does good food. I’ve yet to visit the new Marble brewery, but it is on my wish list of places to go to.

The Old Wellington, Cathedral Gates, is worth it just to enjoy its architecture. It is a 16th century building, which was somehow shifted on giant wheels during a redevelopment to its current location. It serves good Jennings too. Close to the main shops it can get very crowded at lunchtime.

The Britons Protection is a muddle of marvelous bars and corridors

The Micro bar, Unit FC16, Manchester Arndale, High Street, is home to the Boggart brewery and if as many people go on the Twissup as predicted it will soon fill up. It does some good guest beers.

There is a triangle of pubs where it is great to lose an hour or two. Within shouting distance are the Britons Protection, Rain Bar and Peveril of Peak. The Britons Protection, 50 Great Bridgewater Street, is a marvellous collection of small bars and corridors. The Rain bar, 80 Great Bridgewater Street is owned by J W lees. When it first opened in 1999 in a former Victorian warehouse on the Rochdale canal, it was a great example of showing that real ale can be served to a new audience in stylish surroundings and it is still bringing new people to good beer. The Peveril of Peak, 127 Great Bridgewater Street, is worth a visit just to enjoy its exquisite tiled exterior.

The Jolly Angler, 47 Dickie Street, a back street pub, it is a slightly old fashioned place, and one that is now a rarity. The Hydes Original Bitter might be seen as a retro beer, but when it is good it is very good.

Rain's bought real ale to a new audience

Knott, 374 Deansgate, there is something for everyone in this bar. It is a great place to meet up with friends, have a beer and then a second before deciding what to do next.

I’m dying to know where the Twissups goes, I’m sure they’ll find different places to drink which will equal and even better my personal choices. Manchester is that type of place.

Written by timhampson

October 23, 2010 at 6:57 am

An old friend returns

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Courage Directors - "actually it's really rather good".

One of the best things about old friends, is that sometimes you don’t see them for years, but when you do meet you immediately feel comfortable in each others company. There doesn’t even have to be lot conversation, you just enjoy the other’s presence.

So it is with Courage Directors. Once the beer was one of the strutting stags of British brewing and stood tall alongside great English ales like Bass and Pedigree. This was in a time when drinkers did not have the lavish choice of style and beers now compete for our attention.

A traditional dark bitter, at 4.8 per cent ABV, it was first brewed (I think) at Alton in Hampshire and so the legend has it was brewed exclusively for the company’s top brass, and not for public sale. For many year’s it was brewed in Courage’s famed ale brewery in Bristol.

The story of the Courage mirrors the decline of the country’s old brewing companies, when takeovers, poor marketing and bad business decisions saw the disappearance of many household names.

Courage & Co was started by John Courage at the Anchor Brewhouse in Horselydown, Bermondsey in 1787. Skipping a couple of centuries, in 1955, the company merged with Barclay, Perkins & Co Ltd to become Courage, Barclay & Co. Only five years later, another merger with the Reading based Simonds’ Brewery led to the name changing to Courage, Barclay, Simonds & Co. This was simplified to Courage in October 1970 and the company was taken over by the Imperial Tobacco Group two years later.

Imperial Tobacco was acquired by the Hanson Trust in 1986 and they sold off Courage to Elders IXL who were renamed the Foster’s Brewing Group in 1990. The following year, the Courage section of Foster’s merged with all the breweries of Grand Metropolitan.

Its public houses were owned by a joint-company called Inntrepreneur Estates. Scottish & Newcastle purchased Courage from Foster’s in 1995, creating Scottish Courage as its brewing arm, which was itself then bought a consortium comprising Carlsberg and Heineken in 2008.

Sadly, during the 1990s and the early years of this century Directors fell on troubled times, it wasn’t promoted as it could have been as different owners concentrated on the sale of lager and how much money they would make from asset stripping and the sale of their shares. But the iconic brand was rescued in 2007 by Wells and Young’s Brewing The Bedford company set up a new joint venture business called Courage Brands, in which it has an 83 per cent stake with Scottish & Newcastle the previous owner of the brand. S&N holds the remaining equity in the company. But enough of the history.

Some old tasting notes of mine describe Directors as a full-drinking and complex ale with a full malt taste and an intense bitter sweet finish.

Comparing a draught beer with its bottled version is rarely ideal. But the current bottled Directors, which was given to me by Wells and Youngs, is a distinguished beer. I don’t trust my on taste memory and our palates change over time anyway, but it has a marvellous bitter sweet intensity and almost a honey flavour. It ends with a satisfying, longish dry salty finish.

My daughter Ruth (aged 24) took a sip of it – ooh that got some citrus, grapefruit flavours, “actually it’s rather good” as she finished the glass. I think that sums it up, it is  indeed rather good.

Written by timhampson

October 22, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Old if might be, but that doesn’t stop Dusseldorf’s alt beer from being served fresh

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Alt beers are poured fresh and fast from wooden barrels

 

The beer world is getting smaller – today we can drink an American IPA brewed in Yorkshire, a pilsner produced in the Cotswolds and English bitter made in northern Italy.

However, there is something special about finding a beer which is enjoyed by people of all ages in its home town. The best bars are like good friends – be it the first time you have met them or a reunion after many years – the mood is comfortable and relaxed, but coupled with a frisson of excitement.

The German town of Dusseldorf in Germany is renowned for its dark Alt beers.  One translation of the alt might mean “old”,and it is said these beers are so-called because they predate the “newer”  pilsner which in many parts of the world have seemingly swept all before it. However, more likely is that the word has a Latin root and it would be better translated as “high”, denoting that the beer is top fermented, with a yeast head forming on top of the fermenting beer

 

Alt beers are topped by a fresh white head

 

A Dusseldorfer alt is served fresh and fast from a wooden cask. Brown in colour, with a large white foaming head, they have a refreshing bitter sweetness –not as bitter as English ale – they have the full maltiness one comes to expect from a German beer.

The beer is a great soul mate to plates of local sausages or even a hearty Rhineland variation of a steak tartar, which is served with raw onions on a crispy roll. Vegetarians do not fare well in Dusseldorf.

Within the bustling streets of the Altstade – or old town to you and me – there are a trio of three brew pubs – Füchschen (Ratinger Str. 32), Zum Schlüssel, (Bolkerstraße 41-47) and Uerige (Berger Straße 1) –whose beers can be found in other pubs too, along with beers from Schumacher (Oststraße 123) which is just outside the old area.

 

The food is hearty and robust

 

Inside these glorious, coliseums to the art of craft brewing, the beer is mashed like an English ale and then top fermented in open vessels. Here ale and lager production meld into one as the beer is then fermented and conditioned or 15/16 days before being decanted into the wooden barrels and lagered for up to four weeks at a temperature close to zero centigrade.  The beer is served straight from the wooden casks.

The waiters’ prowl through these bars, with rapt concentration watching those they are serving. Empty glasses are soon filled, a pen puts a mark on a beer mat recording accurately how many you have had. It is a curious process, but one which becomes clear, when you realise the waiters, often known as kobes, are self employed, they buy the beer from the bar and sell it on to customers.

There is always something special about sitting in bars, where in the shadows there are generations of drinkers who have come before – all who have indulged in the same simple pleasures of conversation, friendship and good beer. And that is the glory of the old town bars.

But how should an Englishman abroad finish off the evening? Locals point me towards a bar selling Killepitsch, a herbal liquor with 42% alcohol content, it is a digestif made of 98 different essences, herbs, berries and fruits. Better than a dessert, the Schnapps based drink, is said to settle nerves and prevent indigestion.

 

It might not be a beer but a glass of Killepitsch, served through a hatch and drunk from a plastic glass is a perfect end to a wonderful evening

 

And if it is late and the Killepitsch bar is closing, lucky drinkers can be served a through a hatch in the window and just “tip it back” from a small plastic glass before heading back to their hotel.

Written by timhampson

October 6, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Turtley Corn Mill, Avowick is the cream of Devon

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A former chicken hatchery has been transformed into a fine pub

You do not have to be driven to the Turtley Corn Mill in an open topped car on a still warm, end of summer’s day, but it helps as is it is a glorious, exhilarating ride though the undulating Devon countryside from the city of Exeter.

The mill wheel remains as a tribute to its former life

The location is idyllic; the original mill is set in six acres of grounds bordered by the River Glazebrook, in Avonwick, South Brent. It has its own small lake complete with an island, perfect for sunny days, idle wandering, the watching of quacking ducks and people playing lawn chess.

Check mate?

Once the site sounded to the clucking and chirping of fowl as for many years it was a chicken hatchery before becoming a pub in the 1970’s. The former mill was transformed by a radical refurbishment in 2005, which has introduced oak and slate floors, bookcases, old furniture and loads of local pictures. However, the old mill wheel remains as a striking reminder of the building’s previous existence. Inside, the style is light and fresh with no music, fruit machines or pool tables, just newspapers to read, books to browse, good food and great local beers.

There is plenty of space in the garden for drinking

My friend opted for a cream topped hot chocolate. I preferred a glass of Otter Bitter from a farm based brewery in East Devon’s Blackdown Hills. The Otter Brewery was set up in 1990 by the McCaig family. Its eco-systems should make most people green with envy. It has a semi-underground eco-cellar built with clay blocks and a sedum roof. And the effluent safely flows out into its own reed bed. I have a particular liking for a bottled beer Otter brewed for sale in the US, Hoppy Otter at 6.8 per cent ABV, which I do not think was ever sold in the UK. However, for me the really great British beers are brewed at about 3.6 per cent ABV. It needs real skill to get so much taste into something we often call in an understated way “ordinary bitter”. There is nothing ordinary about Otter’s Bitter, it is complex and full of ripe fruit notes. With my lunch, I had a glass of St Austell’s IPA, it went well with the local haddock fillet fried in a real ale batter. Well I know it is not a proper IPA, but it is an easy drinking malty –and toffee flavoured beer balanced by some refreshing citrus hops.

Many fine walks surround the pub

After lunch we took a 15 minute walk alongside the river, joined by fellow customers trying to wear dogs and children out. Then back to the car and shunning the A38 we took the winding b-roads back into Exeter. http://www.turtleycornmill.com/

Written by timhampson

September 13, 2010 at 5:49 pm

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.