Saturday, 25 February 2012

Open It! Live In Leeds

In the spirit of a picture being worth a thousand words, I've set up a Tumblr account for tonight's Open It Live, in Leeds. You should be able to find it here.

It's just an experiment to see if it it adds anything to the overall reporting of the event. Or it might just be me annoying people with my phone.

We'll know on a couple of hours, I guess!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Please find enclosed herein.....

Hi Zak,

Please find enclosed herein a bottle of Bear Republic "Racer 5" IPA.

Many months ago, after I posted on the Wine Pages forum, you helped me find good beer. When my wife and I stopped into Beerritz, You kindly gifted me a bottle of the Brewdog "Avery, Brown, Dredge" Imperial Pilsner. At that time, you wouldn't take my money for that beer -- instead you told me to give you how ever much I though it was worth on my next visit to the store. As it was, I enjoyed the ABD quite a lot, but I feel that giving you money for that beer (which bears your name) would be too impersonal.

And so we arrive at the bottle sitting in this bag. I recently visited friends and family in the States, and was able to bring some beer back to England with me when I returned. This is one of those bottles. This beer is my favourite "regular" IPA, and a six-pack of it is always in my fridge when I'm at home in California. So rather than money, I give you this beer [smiley face]

I hope you enjoy this beer as much as I do, Zak. Please let me know what you think of it. Thank you again for your kindness.

All the best, Brian


Dear Brian,

thank you so much for this. I remember sending you that message on Wine Pages, and I remember you coming to the shop. Although I don't really post as much as I'd like to in the beer section of Wine Pages, I do look at it frequently, and I see that you are a regular poster. I'm happy to see that about half of what you post about comes from the shop (or from somewhere in Harrogate more local to you).

When I gave you the bottle of ABD, I did so thinking that you would probably enjoy it, and I'm pleased that you did. I was delighted that you'd come to see us, not only because you brought a wallet full of money, some of which you were good enough to leave with us, but because you obviously love beer.

Part of the fun of being into great beer is turning people on to things that they've never had before. Hence me making free with the ABD. And I'm so delighted that you've returned the favour.

Oscar Wilde said that a cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing. With this cynicism-free act, you've demonstrated that a gesture can be worth tenfold the value of any goods that it contains. I'm drinking the Racer 5 now, and am happy to report that it's bringing me a huge amount of pleasure, not just by being a good beer, but also in the spirit in which it was given.

Keep the faith, Zak

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Sweet Treats and Beer

A huge thanks to Leigh of The Good Stuff for his sterling baking odyssey that resulted in some stellar baked goods for our beer and food matching evening. Words can't do justice to how great the matches were, but here goes:

Baked Vanilla Cheesecake with Oakham Hawse Buckler or Summer Wine Teleporter

If there is anything that will convert a sceptic to the cause of beer and food matching, it's this pairing. Rich creamy cheesecake against bittersweet roasted flavours. Exceptional.

Banana and Fudge Bread with Maisels Dunkel or Erdinger Dunkel

This was the pairing that I was the most sceptical of, but as it turns out, I don't in fact know everything. The match of spice, malt and banana in both was a winner, and ,ike a high tea for grown ups, the absorbency of the bred against the fluffy texture of the weissebier was revelatory.

Chocolate Brownie with Mort Subite Kriek or Timmermans Framboise

What's not to like? Rich dark chocolate, set off against a sweetly fruity backdrop, with the bitterness of the brownie and the faintly wild notes of the beers keeping everything lively on the palate. Cracking stuff.

If you came along, please let us know what you thought. If you didn't, shame on you! If you're not in Leeds, and you can bake, why not get in touch with your local bottle shop and suggest something similar? It's fun!

Women! Men! Beer! Cake!

Leigh issues careful instructions: "YOU! CAKE! NOW!"

Jeff, hard at work, clearly looks annoyed that someone wants some of 'his' cakes.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

What Is A Brewer?

This is a question that's been whirring round in my head for a while. It was sort of kickstarted a year or so ago when I stumbled across the PDTNC blog. Adrian is a brewer, and I was particularly taken with his slant on homebrewing - he built a lot of his own homebrew gear, and has also helped others with various bits of kit.

This made me realise that a good (home)brewer wasn't just someone who had a good idea about what might make a good beer, but that they also had a good understanding of the processes that will get you there. A good beer isn't just a good recipe - it's also about the execution of it, and the ability of the brewer to manipulate all the variables in that process, from set-up, through brewing, to clean-up, from the ingredients arriving, to the beer leaving in small or large pack. It's not just about the recipe - its about every step of the way, all the way back to the set-up and purchase of the brewery.

And what of the brewer's job itself? Should that just be confined to the brewhouse? Is it important that brewers are able to talk eloquently about their wares, not just to their peers in the industry, but also to the end consumer? Should brewers be white-coated scientists, or should they be rock stars? Is it necessary, or even desirable, for a brewer to have a microscopic understanding of everything that is going on in the brewing process, so that every batch of beer is the same as the last, or are we prepared to tolerate a few bad batches of usually very good beer, even if those bad batches are brought about by sloppy practice?

When you drink a beer, the way it tastes is the result of a very deliberate set of decisions and precise actions by a brewer. Each bottle of beer you buy in shop, each pint of beer you buy over a bar is a little essay, a story of flavour, aroma, taste and texture, from a brewer to you. Is that liquid love-note enough, or do you want more from your brewers?

What, to you, is a brewer?