Iceni – Men of Norfolk 6.2% ABV

30 01 2011

Men of Norfolk is a strong (6.2%) dark beer from the Iceni brewery in Norfolk.

The Iceni Brewery is situated on the edge of Thetford Forest and takes its name from the Iceni tribe who were ruled by Queen Boudicca (yes, the famous one in the chariot) and occupied most of Norfolk and Suffolk around 61 AD. They have been producing beers since 1995 and even have their own hop garden on site…

I first came across the Iceni Brewery selling bottled beers in a food hall at the nearby Elveden Estate and picked up a couple of bottles for my uncle and I to  have later that day – Roisin Dubh if my memory serves correctly.

Well those couple of bottles went down well and since then I have tried pretty much all of the beers that Iceni have produced.

I have seen Men of Norfolk listed as a couple of different styles over the years, a few pubs have put it down as a porter and I have often seen it listed as a mild… I am going to stick with my original assertion that this is a strong dark ale and will try to steer clear of pigeon holing it unduly.

The pint pours to a rich black colour with a fairly thin cream coloured head that lasts well through out drinking – you could be mistaken for assuming it to be a stout based on looks alone.

The aroma is definitely there but isn’t too pronounced with roasted malts, raisins, chocolate and liquorice coming through clearly, there is also a slightly sour/bitter note almost like a bitter coffee that comes through in the background.

The main flavours are roasted malts chocolate, some sweet dark fruit – raisins, sultanas etc,  caramel and there is a nice cocoa bitterness in the finish The sweetness from the fruits and the slight bit of bitterness from the cocoa work well to balance out the rich roasted malt.

The carbonation is a little light and gives  a very soft mouthfeel that might not appeal to everyone but overall this is a small complaint to have.

I really enjoyed Men of Norfolk, the flavours work well together and have enough punch to carry the strength of the beer so you don’t just end up with that sour alcohol note that can plague some strong ales. 

 A very good beer from a small local brewer 4.5 / 5

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White Horse – Black Horse Porter

30 12 2010

Black Horse Porter is a seasonal beer from the White Horse brewery (see what they did there…) from Stanford-in-the-Vale in Oxfordshire.

I have encountered a couple of their beers before and had found them to be well above average, in particular Volund’s Hammer and Wayland Smithy.

I came across this beer on cask at the Argyll Arms at Oxford Circus and after looking at the tasting notes – great idea everywhere should do it – I decided to give it a spin.

In terms of looks this is exactly what a porter should be, so dark it’s nearly black with a good firm white head that stays well for the duration of the pint.

You get the expected aroma of chocolate malt along with a rich biscuity note and some very light fruit.

The taste of this porter is superb, rich roasted malts give real depth and body to the beer whilst there is a nice hint of dark fruits which add a little tartness without making the beer in anyway fruity or overly sweet. There is a long dry finish and a really surprising kick of hops which really makes this porter sing.

I found this porter to a be a real treat, it was warming and full bodied with a great depth of flavour to it and the liberal use of Kentish hops really made it stand out.

4.7/5





Fuller’s London Porter 5.4%

5 12 2010

Fairly recently I wrote a review on Fuller’s London Pride (here) today I turn my attention to another beer from the London based brewery; Fuller’s London Porter.

I’m not going to prattle on at length about the history and origins of porter – trust me I can if you want 😉 but it is great to see a London brewery still leads the way in producing what I and many others deem to be the gold standard of porters.

Ok so where to begin, well it pours very dark brown, not black close enough, there is a slight ruby sheen to a pint if held up directly to the light. The head is egg-shell white and settles out at around 2 fingers, the head fades away a fair bit but leaves a load of lacing on the glass.

In terms of aroma you can quite clearly make out roasted malt, some bitter coffee notes and a hint of toffee or caramel, there is also a slight nuttiness and a hint of hops.

Taste is where Fuller’s have really won through on this one; everything you can pick up in the aroma of the porter is present and more.  The deep roasted malts come to the fore along with the coffee note and that toffee/caramel sweetness.

The chocolate from the roasted malt comes through in the after taste but in a subtle way, it is very much a supporting character in this porter as is the slightly nutty taste. There is a hint of fruitiness that you just about pick up in the background as well, if I had to try and pin it down I would go with raisins or sultanas with a tiny hit of vanilla creeping in as well.

All in all you come away with a rich complex taste that for me ticks all the right boxes, it is rich and malty, slightly sweet and fruity with an underlying bitterness that is refreshing and cuts through the richness which otherwise might be a tad cloying.

In terms of mouthfeel there is only really one word to describe this porter: smooth. In face we are going beyond smooth we are talking baby’s bottoms or the finest velvet gliding across your tongue  – ok well maybe not baby’s bottoms but you get the picture.

A lot of people far more worthy than I have waxed lyrical about Fuller’s London Porter and have even gone so far as to vote it the World’s best porter on several occasions. I don’t often like to follow crowds or ride along with popular opinion but on this occasion I can’t really disagree with any degree of conviction.

There might be better porters out there but if there are I certainly haven’t found them.

5/5





Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

30 11 2010

There are a lot of chocolate stouts available on the market today and I mean a LOT. It is a popular style of beer that people just can’t seem to get enough of.

Because of the sheer range of chocolate stouts available it is quite an achievement to stand out from the crowd; Young’s Double Chocolate manages not just to stand out but to jump up and down whilst waving.

How do they manage such a feat? Well as odd as it might sound most chocolate stouts actually don’t contain any chocolate whatsoever, the name and indeed the taste actually comes from the dark malt that is used. Young’s however throw a small amount of chocolate into the mix and the difference to the taste is immediately apparent.

The main thing you notice from the aroma of the stout is unsurprisingly the chocolate, you also pick up the rich roasted malts and a slight hint of sweetness. If anything I think that the chocolate aroma is a little bit too strong for my liking, if you were blindfold you could be mistaken for think you were being given a cup of cocoa not a beer.

In terms of looks the stout pours very dark, almost black and has a thick rich look to it with a good sized beige head that lasts well throughout think Guinness but even thicker.

So we come to the main attraction, how it tastes.

Luckily the taste is far more balanced than the aroma, I had been concerned that this would just be sweet and like drinking a pint of chocolate, but that’s not the case at all. You get the taste of good dark chocolate coming through along with a dry nuttiness and a hint of coffee from the roasted malts.

In contrast to the rich sweetness of the stout you get a nice kick of hops that comes in midway through and lingers to the finish, there is also a slight aniseed / liquorice that helps to keep things balanced and a hint of alcohol dryness towards the end.

In terms of mouthfeel this is a very smooth creamy stout that is like drinking rich dark velvet, the body is edging towards the heavy end of the scale and it just feels wonderfully luxurious.

All in all I would have to say that Young’s Double Chocolate Stout is one of if not the best examples of chocolate stout that you will find,not only is it great for the slight novelty value of having actual chocolate added to it but it is a superb stout in and of itself.

4.85/5

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Man Walks into a Pub: A sociable History of Beer by Pete Brown

18 11 2010

Man Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of BeerMan Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer by Pete Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read quite a few books on beer in the past and have found that typically they all have one thing in common: they are either monumentally dull or a total farce.

Weighty volumes that document the complete history of a particular brewery right down to what tiny changes were made to a particular recipe and when are all very well and good. No doubt they are of great interest to men with big bushy beards who wear cable knit jumpers and who carry note books around with them but they are a bit too serious and stodgy for the more casual reader.

On the flip side of the coin I don’t want to read a book written by some tracksuit wearing chav who just wants to brag about how he can drink 20 pints of Stella, fight some rival football fans and still drive his barely legal Vauxhall Nova that should have been scrapped before he was born.

That is where Pete Brown has got things bang on the money, he treats the subject seriously and manages to convey a lot of useful information whilst keeping things light and smattered with humour throughout.

By choosing to focus more on the social history of beer brewing and drinking he avoids bogging the reader down with some of the useless minutiae that a lot of the more serious beer books pride themselves on.

I am also very impressed with the way that Pete Brown handles the often tricky real ale vs. lager issue. A lot of writers fall heavily on one side of the fence or the other and as such we often hear lager being decried as tasteless or a children’s drink or ale being slagged off for being a drink for fat, bearded weirdos who need to get out more.

Whilst I have my own views on the matter I realise no one really wants to hear them, and in return I don’t really want to hear their views rehashed over and over again either.
So it was certainly pleasant to come across an author who wasn’t using their book as a soapbox to take pot shots at their target of choice.

If you have anything more than a passing interest in beer and have ever considered reading more about beer and drinking then you could do an awful lot worse than to take this book as a starting point.

View all my reviews





Best Steak and Mushroom Pie

7 11 2010

It has come to my attention recently that pies are now trendy… don’t really know what to say about that as where I come from they have never really gone out of fashion but that is by the by.

The weather is drawing in and it is the time of year for something warming and that is exactly what this steak and mushroom pie is.

To make a pie that will feed 4-6 people you will need the following:

500g diced steak (round steak works well)

500g mushrooms (any old mushrooms will do)

2 large white onions

2 carrots

2 tomatoes

a good handful of parsley

1 clove of garlic

1 pint stout or porter

1/2 pint beef stock

500g shortcrust pastry

salt and pepper

1 tbsp worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp tabasco sauce

flour

make sure that the steak is diced into smallish cubes, if any seem too large then cut them until they seem about right, pop the cubes of steak into a bowl of seasoned flour and ensure that all of the chunks are well coated.

Heat some butter or lard in a large pan until it is just about smoking, now add the cubes of steak in batches until all of the meat is browned off.

Place the steak to one side until later, now add the diced carrots and onions to the same pan and cook until they are starting to soften.

Once the carrots and onions have softened add the diced tomatoes, chopped mushrooms and the chopped parsely to the pan along with the remainder of the flour from the bowl and all of the wet ingredients, stir together well and return the steak to the pan.

Cover the pan and leave to cook over a low heat for at least 1 1/2 hours.

Ensuring that your pastry is nice and chilled roll out enough to make the base of your pie and line your pie dish/an enamel plate with it. You will want to leave soem over hang so that you can make a good seal with the lid later on.

Place your pie dish/enamel plate into the fridge to keep the pastry cool and to prevent shrinking until you need it.

Once the filling has been cooking for 1 1/2 hours take it off of the heat and leave to one side for it to cool as you do not want to be putting the filling onto the pastry whilst it is still hot.

Brush the inside of the pie crust with beaten egg to stop it from going too soggy, now add your cooled pie filling into the pastry and make sure it is well spread and evenly filled, there is nothing worse then a big gap in your pie.

Brush some beaten egg around the top lip of the pie crust so as to form a seal and place the lid of your pie on top.

Make sure that you cut a hole for the steam to escape from during cooking, now brush the remainder of the beaten egg over the top of the pastry to give it a lovely golden colour.

Cook the pie for approximately 30 minutes in an oven that has been preheated to around 180 degrees. Once the pastry is golden brown on top the pie is ready.





Week 1 taste test

20 09 2010

My lager was bottled over a week ago now. It has spent this week liberally swaddled in coats and sweat shirts to ensure that it has stayed within it’s optimum temperature bracket of 21-24 degrees and it seems that I have succeeded 🙂

On getting home yesterday afternoon I decided to give it a quick taste test to see how things are faring one week on…. well the results are positive indeed.

The beer is reasonably fizzy (but not there yet) is keeping a decent head, has a reasonable amount of lacing on the glass and actually tastes good.

Not just like a half decent store bought lager but actually properly good!

Somehow by some miracle I was drinking lager that had a taste other then just being a really cold fizzy liquid 😀

Now to leave it be for another week at room temperature before sticking half of it into the fridge and the rest under the floorboards.








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