Beer of the year 2010

10 01 2011

You might not have noticed but 2010 is dead and gone.

Whilst I don’t believe in New Years resolutions or anything that daft I do like to take the new year as an opportunity to look back over the previous one and take stock.

One thing that really stuck out for me whilst I was looking back over 2010 was the sheer number of different beers that crossed my path during the past 12 months, from old friends like Theakston’s Old Peculier to new encounters like Sharp’s Cornish Coaster I have sampled a huge variety of beers, even if I haven’t managed to get all of the reviews up yet!

I spent an enjoyable half hour or so considering this selection and there were a couple of beers that stood out for me as being real gems that deserved to be shouted about.

So with no further delay here are my personal picks for Beer of the year 2010

Beer of the Year 2010:

Great Oakley Gobble


 

Best Stout or Porter:

Maldon Oyster Stout

 

It was so tough for me to pick just two beers as I have tasted some really fine examples of the brewers art this past year and could have quite easily come up with a list of beers as long as my arm.

They haven’t all been good beers though and whilst I was happily day dreaming of beers gone by there were one or two horrors that had me shuddering at the thought.

So here we have a new category, one which no brewer should ever hope to end up…

Worst Beer of 2010:

Rocking Rudolph



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Butterbeer

23 12 2010

 I have messed around with the idea of making butterbeer quite a few times in the past, it has always seemed like quite a nice idea for a festive drink, particularly as I have more than a passing interest in historical English foods and beers.

 I have tried out several variations but in the end I settled pretty much on Heston Blumenthal’s recipe from one of his TV shows – Heston’s Christmas Feast if my memory serves.

I have made a couple of tiny little changes to the recipe but they are purely down to personal tastes. For starters Heston recommends using Old Speckled Hen; now whilst I have nothing against Old Speckled Hen I just find that it doesn’t sit right with me for this particular application.

My reasons for this are two-fold; firstly I would rather use something closer to what our Elizabethan ancestors would have had available and secondly and most importantly I don’t think it tastes quite right when mixed with the other ingredients.

Seeing as Heston’s recipe is pretty damn authentic I reckon the clash could come about because the other ingredients were supposed to work with a certain style of beer, I have seen other recipes make the suggestion that Fuller’s London Pride would work well but I am also not convinced that this would be the case, a pale ale just seems far too modern somehow.

Instead I have opted for an old ale, in this particular instance I am going to use Theakstons Old Peculier but feel free to go with whatever you want to use – I have in the past used Greene King Strong Suffolk to good effect.

One quick warning to any parents out there this is NOT a recipe for the drink of the same name in the Harry Potter series, there is very clearly alcohol in this recipe and as such is NOT intended for children to quaff whilst pretending to play quidditch.

That said you could always increase the heat in the early stages in order to cook off most of the alcohol, but where is the fun in that?

Ingredients

3 pints of “old Ale”

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground nutmeg

120g caster sugar

5 egg yolks

20g unsalted butter

Method:

Pour the ale into a saucepan and stir in the ground ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Gently heat the mixture until it is warm, do not let it boil.

Cream together the egg yolks and caster sugar.

Once the ale is warm, add the egg yolk and sugar mixture, stirring constantly, until the liquid has started to thicken slightly. Be careful not to let the saucepan get too hot or the eggs will scramble.

After 2/3 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter until it melts. Stir vigorously to make sure it is well incorporated with the other ingredients.

Serve immediately in 1/2 pints, if you want to get a frothy head you might want to use a small capuccino frother





Stilton Beer…

20 12 2010

British cheese-makers have recently announced that in conjunction with the Belvoir brewery they have developed a Stilton based beer.

The beer has been cunningly named “The Blue Brew” and is said to capture the distinctive creamy and salty flavours of the world famous  blue cheese  by adding stilton whey in with the wort as the beer is fermenting.

Bosses from the Stilton Cheese-makers Association and Belvoir Brewery say it took several attempts to get the drink right but they are convinced drinkers will like the taste of this unique 4.2% real ale.

I reckon it is going to be quite sometime before one of these beers happens to cross my path but I will admit to being rather excited to sample it.

In the meanwhile the information surrounding this beer is a little bit sketchy so I have contacted Belvoir to see if there is any more light they can shed on this cheesy tipple.





Santa’s Sack Christmas Ale

16 12 2010

I had this recently as part of Wetherspoon’s selection of festive beers.

It is the last of Thwaites  “Signature Range” for 2010 and  having enjoyed several of the earlier offerings I was looking forward to an enjoyable pint.

My first impressions were pleasing as the pints that were set in front of me a really dark ruby red with a nice  thick foamy white head on them.

There was a fairly distinct aroma coming off  the beer which was a mixture between chocolate and what smelt like ovaltine, suggesting to me that there should be a really malty depth to the beer.

Well it turns out that looks can be deceiving, I led to believe I was going to be spirited away to a magical Dickensian Christmas  full of luxury and richness. Instead I was dragged on a 3 hour bus ride to Weston-Super-Mare, in the rain, with the windows open and the heater broken.

The predominant taste was that of cheap sugar and burnt toffee, none of the rich fruits, spices or chocolate notes that I would expect to get from a Christmas ale or winter warmer.

The body was so light as to be non-existent and if there was one that sticks out in my mind most about this pint it is wet.

I know that a number of people online have been raving about this beer but I just couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it. So much that I took my pint back unfinished as did my mate.

1/5





Make your own Mulled Wine

15 12 2010

What is more festive than a warming glass of hot mulled wine?  With its heady mix of fruit and spices it is quite literally Christmas in a glass.

I know that a lot of people buy those prepared bags of spice mix that you can get in the supermarket and they are all very well and good but once you have made your own mulled wine from scratch you will never even think of going back to the pre-made sachets or bags.

Ingredients:

75 cl bottle cabernet sauvignon red wine

75 cl bottle of port

25 cl apple cider

1 orange

12 cloves

2 clementines

3 lemons

6 tbsp honey

1 cinnamon stick

2 tsp ground ginger

3 fresh bay leaves

1 vanilla pod

2 star anise

1 whole nutmeg

2 measures of brandy/cognac – optional

Method:

This really couldn’t be any easier to make;

Take the orange and stud it with the cloves and chop the clementines and two of the lemons into slices, this can be done in advance

Add the port and the wine to a large saucepan and pour in the honey, cider and brandy, if you are using it, along with 2 pints of water. Give everything a good stir and pop the saucepan over a low heat to simmer.

Zest the remaining lemon and squeeze in half of the juice

Grate approx 1/3 of the nutmeg into the pan

Split the vanilla pod in two and  add to the pan along with the sliced fruit and the rest of the dry ingredients.

Allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not let the mulled wine boil or you will cook off all of the alcohol.

Serve warm in 1/2 pint mugs





Duvel

3 12 2010

 So as to prove that I’m not some xenophobic “little Englander” I have decided to turn my attentions to the unsuspecting nation of Belgium.

 In particular I have in my sights their very good, indeed often excellent, selection of beers. I am starting with Duvel for no other reason than my own personal love of the stuff, even if too many bottles do result in the mother of all headaches.

 So where to begin, well Duvel is as I say a Belgian beer but it took its original inspiration from English ale of all things.

After WW1 English ales were getting fairly popular in Belgium and Moortgat decided to get in on the act so off they popped to Scotland and got their hands on some yeast and the rest is history…

I have seen Duvel listed as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale and this is probably the closest you will get to pinning a label on it, one thing is for certain at 8.5% it sure is strong, I have known more than one person snort at the diminutive 330ml bottle and knock it back only to find that it has knocked them out for the count – there is a reason it is called the Devil after all.

The aroma of Duvel is rather interesting you get strong citrus notes, some cider like apple, a bit of hay/grass and a strong clean alcohol element that comes through.

Normally I couldn’t give a rat’s arse about the branded glasses that breweries knock out seeing them as a nice little collectible but nothing more, not so this time. 

To really enjoy Duvel at it’s best you need to get your hands on the correct glass, it is the perfect size for starters allowing you to pour the whole bottle in with ample room for the impressive frothy white head; not only that the embossed D on the base of the glass helps create effervescence which aids that head in sticking around. As if that wasn’t enough of a reason the rounded glass helps fully release the flavour and aroma of the beer.

In terms of looks the beer is a lovely clear golden colour that could almost be mistaken for a lager, the carbonation is clearly visible (aided by that aforementioned D) and the pure white head stands tall and lasts throughout with impressive lacing.

The taste of Duvel is to die for; the malt is clean and crisp and lasts from beginning to end, the alcohol is warming and combines with the bitterness of the hops to give a refreshing dry finish that leaves you begging for another sip. There  are hints of pepper and a really pleasant earthiness that are present throughout along with the same citrus notes that you can pick up in the aroma.

There really isn’t a single thing that I can fault about Duvel and trust me I can normally pick holes in anything and everything, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is the absolute best beer in the world but it damn close

5/5





King Goblin 6.6% Special Reserve

21 11 2010

This is what Wychwood have to say about Hobgoblin’s big brother, King Goblin:

Brewed only on a Full Lunar Moon. 

As the full moon casts its eerie light over the shadowy old Eagle Brewery, a magical brew gurgles forth from the casks.

A beer enlivened by the energies of the universe, when the elements are converging into a harmonious alignment. Truly a brew fit for a celestial majesty.

As much as I would like to imagine that this beer was indeed only brewed on a full lunar moon I can’t see that this is anything more than marketing spin on the part of Wychwood.

One thing that is a bit special though is the presentation of the beer itself. the label features the hobgoblin we all know and love but this time he is surrounded with a little silver border which is repeated on the neck label. There is also a little booklet attached to each bottle advertising their hobgoblin/king goblin  engraved tankards which is a nice touch if not quite to everyone’s tastes.

The aroma from King Goblin is reasonably strong there is a rich, sweet maltiness along with a definite hint of citrus fruit, grapefruit if I had to try and pin it down.

The beer pours to a deep rich coppery colour with a fair sized off white head which lasts well whilst drinking and leaves a reasonable amount of lacing, so far so good!

The flavour of King Goblin surprised me in a pleasant way, quite often when you find a “special reserve” version of an existing beer it can be a bit of a let down, it either tastes nothing like the original and they are just cashing in on an existing brand or the extra alcohol kills the flavour of the beer. King Goblin falls prey to neither of these traits.

You can still taste the fact that this is a beer that is based on Hobgoblin; there is still the same toffee sweetness backed up by deep rich malts but the fruitiness that was present before is far more prominent, you get a full on hit of grapefruit and citrus.

You can also get a definite taste of rich dark chocolate coming through alongside the malt which all goes towards making King Goblin have a bit  more complexity than his little brother.

There is a nice smoothness to KG that means hat it goes down oh so easily, the body does feel a little on the thin side though, not watery but just not quite matching the level of alcohol.

Whilst speaking of the alcohol content you do notice that it really does drink it’s strength in fact I have heard some people say that if they didn’t know better they would put it above the 7% marker…

I actually think that in some ways King Goblin does the job of a winter warmer far better than some of the actual winter warmers I have reviewed recently, that said I would be more then happy to enjoy a few anytime of year.

4.5/5








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