Tuesday, 8 November 2016

How did i get here?

Sep 1987 - First visit to a beer festival, Ipswich Corn Exchange, with my colleagues from Barclays International Services Branch. I have no idea what I drank, but, it all looked a bit funny and you got given a programme and a glass, strange habits these old men have.....

Sep 1994 - Started work in London, previously my drinking had been confined to Tolly Cobbold pubs in Ipswich, or, bars when on holiday with the lads. Now I had access to more lagers in more pubs costing me more money, this strangely enough did not make me feel sad.....

August 2001 - Joined Camra during my first visit to the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia......non lager drinks were starting to creep into my pub life, what was going on? I was changing.....

March 2011 - Started the work beer tasting club (which is still going strong), with beery beardy pal Clayton. Jeff Evans hosted the first evening, it was the night I discovered Thornbridge Jaipur. Who knew beer could taste like this? What's that I see in the distance? A rabbit-hole and I seem to have started a march in that very direction.....

May 2013 - My first BeerBods beer was consumed and subsequently checked in on Untappd, got a badge, this made me happy.....

Feb 2015 - SXBottleShare inaugural event kicks off at The Ale House in Chelmsford, thanks in no small part to Steve Bentall and Clayton Chisholm. The first Tuesday of the month is a permanent fixture in the diary with all efforts made not to miss it. These people are my friends......

August 2015 - I decided to post a blog, apparently it wasn't rubbish, so, I wrote some more words and put them into sentences, I am still doing this.....

August 2016 - Aforementioned Steve asks me to co host his new podcast Hopinions, following on from the very successful Beer O'Clock Show that had run for 4 years with Mark, he said there would be drinking of beer involved, I said yes.....

These are merely the milestones I can remember, for example, sometime between Sep 1987 and Sep 1994, I started drinking Tetley's on cask (and what a pint of beer it once was) while I was a member of a pub quiz team, but, I don't remember exactly when. So, you see, as well as the milestones, there have been incremental changes to my beery life such as the regular trips to continental Europe with my brothers, where more eye opening moments have ensued - different beers in different glasses, who knew?

So, here I am, down the rabbit hole, not sure how far down, or how much further to the bottom, but, I am enjoying the journey. It seems that the more I find out, the more I learn and the more beers I try, that I realise there is so much more out there to discover. This is a good time to have an interest in beer (to put into context - 300 or so breweries in 1987 versus 1,700 now), long may it continue.

The beer, the places and the people have all enhanced my life to this point and some lifelong friendships have definitely been forged - life in beer is good, cheers guys!

Before I sign off, thank you Michelle for not only supporting and encouraging me on my beer journey but, for joining me on it, here's to many more years in love and beer.

Some further information relating to my milestones can be found by clicking on the following links:
Great British Beer Festival
Beer Bods
Jeff Evans

Friday, 14 October 2016

Indy Man 16 - Report Card

(The view from our table @ Indy Man this year)

2015 was the first time I attended the Independent Manchester Beer Convention (Indy Man), and I absolutely loved it, easily my favourite festival last year. However, being as I had been blogging for only a few months I decided against commenting and contented myself with reading some excellent posts from other well established bloggers.
Fast forward a year and it is nearly a week since I once again attended the Saturday afternoon session of Indy Man, again travelling with my beardy beer buddy, Clayton and my lovely girlfriend Michelle who was popping her Indy Man cherry. Once again, we were blessed with glorious weather up North, which makes queuing up a much pleasant endeavour.

(Clayton and I appear to be sporting the same tops as last year)

This year, not only have I decided to type up a few words, Steve (@BeerOClockShow) and I have shared our views via our weekly podcast, Hopinions: http://www.beeroclockshow.co.uk/2016/10/hopinions-05-indy-man/

Here's what I loved this year:
1. The Venue! Simply put, it is a stunning place, inside and out. Any event being held here will be enhanced just by making this choice. (http://www.victoriabaths.org.uk/) I believe there is a trust that would love to raise enough money to one day return the Victoria Baths to it's former glory. Wonderful, hold on though, where would Indy Man go? Now, I am torn.....
2. Logistics. So many times, organisers behind events (not just beer festivals) forget the simple things and the huge benefits of marginal gains, the folks at Indy Man did not. Well done. Queue management - with 15 mins to go, volunteers started making their way through the masses of eager beer people to check tickets and provide a wrist band, this helped to clear a bottleneck when entering the building. But, they didn't stop there, they were also selling beer tokens that could be purchased by cash or card. Seemingly so simple, but, made a huge difference in my opinion, which meant that all you had to do was pick up your glass and off you go to go your 1st beer. Last, but, not least, the Wild Beer Marquee opened up a whole new space, Saturday afternoon did not seem so busy as last year.
3. Tokens - Easy to remember system. 1 token = 1/3 beer.

(Spending time with this crowd only enhanced the whole Indy Man experience - thanks guys & gals)

4. The people. Unbelievable, people who tweet, blog and podcast are not only real, but, on the whole a pretty nice bunch too, who knew? Whether it be people I have met before (see above) or putting faces to names (Twitter handles) I always love this bit - a complete joy. You lot are wonderful, BIG hello to you all. Also, a shoutout to the volunteers, without whom I assume it would be a bit more of a struggle to run this event (and others like it).
5. The Beer! 5th on the list, what is the matter with me?!?!? I reckon if the beer choice was poor, I would have found a way to mention it sooner, but, I think this says a lot about Indy Man, that the quality of the breweries invited and the beers presented has not been mentioned yet. let me just say, I did not have a bad beer or a bad beery experience. I went DIPA heavy early on (all part of the plan, honestly!), special mention to Northern Monk Double Heathen AND the Throne of Cans!
Question: What happened to the cans everyone sat on???
(King of the Beers!!)

Could do better:
1. Tokens/Pricing - Simple? Yes. The right way? Not for me. I would have preferred a bit more flexibility, or, even a cash element. However, from an admin point of view, spot on. Also, pricing structure should have been announced at the same time as ticket prices.
2. The Glass - I loved last year's Craft Master One sponsored by Cloudwater, with 1/3, 1/2 and 2/3 markings, bloody wonderful. I could have small measures and I could have sociable measures, you know, the ones where you can chat away not worried that the liquid has evaporated before your very eyes. Also, very fragile, hoping to look after mine and put it on eBay in a couple of weeks, should be worth a few pennies!
(Not the brightest idea, but, I got away with it!!)

3. Food prices - Seemed expensive to me. I am judging the quality or the quantity here, purely how I perceived the price points to be, and, for me it was a bit much.
4. Water stations - where were they? Bit ironic that I was in an old swimming baths, but, water was one of the hardest commodities to come by. I understand you could buy a bottle and get it topped up, but, why not just have water stations? CAMRA would at least have been pleased to see their example followed on this.

Overall though, I had a fantastic time and the same goes for those that I travelled with. The "could do better" was easily outweighed by what "I loved". This festival still remains high up on the list and rightly so. If you haven't yet been, you should make every effort to attend in 2017 - see you there.

(Until next year fish mosaic)

Thursday, 13 October 2016

More to Berlin than Stone!

Bloody British summer, mid September and it's peeing it down at London Stansted on a Friday morning as we are due to take off to go to Berlin for my brother's stag weekend. Fortunately when we arrived in Berlin we were greeted by clear blue sky and warm sunshine but better than that an Oktoberfest bar is waiting for us 10 metres outside arrivals what where we to do? Only one thing you could do in that situation, have some beer. So, Brian (my other brother) myself and one of our mates sat ourselves down for the next 3 hours before deciding that we really should make an attempt to get into Berlin! Upon arrival at Tempelhof in Berlin we met up with my brother Paul who's stag weekend it was, and guess what? He was in an Oktoberfest bar outside the station (great minds think alike).

The main plan for the Friday evening was going to watch a local Berlin football team play in what used to be East Berlin. By early evening there was a small group of us to go and watch the football. Upon arrival at the venue, we spied a Veltins pop up bar selling beer for around €2.50 for 1/2 litre. This is not my favourite pils, but at €2.50 outside a football ground, I can learn to love it a little bit more! Even more astonishing to an English football fan was the fact that once we got in the ground the beer was not only the same price, but I could buy, drink and watch the game all at the same time (incidentally, cost of my ticket for the football - €15).

After the match we went to an Irish bar to watch the conclusion of the Chelsea vs Liverpool match (a good result for my team as we beat The Blues 2-1) many more pils were consumed, although none of any note, plus a disgusting Irish red ale which I am pretty sure I didn't finish. On the Saturday we went to Stone Brewery, and if you want to read more about that click feel free to click on the link:

After the rain of Saturday, I awoke to find Berlin was basking in glorious sunshine, clear blue sky, therefore, not wanting to waste the lovely weather I abandoned my room mates and walked the 5/6 kms to Alexanderplatz , taking in some lovely scenery and history.

For those of you that haven't been to Berlin, Alexanderplatz is where the tower and the world clock are, also, features in the second Bourne film as Jason once again outwits his previous employers! However, I was in the area to outwit no one, I was there to visit another craft bar (thanks to Nate @NateDawg27 for the recommendation). Allow me to present to you - Lemke Berlin

So, it would appear that setting up under a railway arch is not just something we do here in the UK, those Europeans types do it also! And, what a lovely space it is, very warm and welcoming the moment you step in the place. Immediately you can see that they take beer seriously, but, the way the bar is set up you can just sit down, ignore all that craft beer stuff and order a beer and food. It is simply somewhere you can relax, have a beer, or all the beers (just for the record, I did the latter) and chill, while contemplating the upcoming match between Hertha Berlin v Shalke.
The tasting selection consisted of Bohemian Pilsner, 030 Pale Ale, Lemke Original, Weizen, Hopfen Weisse & India Pale Ale, with the standout being the India Pale Ale. I can also vouch for the food in this place too, tasty and reasonably priced. I followed up the tasters with a 1/3 of each of the Imperial IPA and Imperial Stout, again, the IPA was the standout. Lastly, as it was Oktoberfest season I also sampled the Festbier, a good example of the style. Finally, my room mates had arrived, enough time for another beer before heading to the Olympic Stadium for the football.
And, what a stadium it is - awesome springs to mind but doesn't seem to quite cover it in all honesty. Once again, beer in and around the stadium is positively encouraged, All of the food joints sell beer, it really is a revelation once again to someone schooled in the English game which effectively says I can have one but not the other. This is the same stadium made infamous in 1936 by Jesse Owens winning 4 Gold medals which rather upset the Fuhrer, or, so we are lead to believe! (Hertha Berlin won the match by the way). Berlin is a City that should be visited for so many reasons, and, i hope over the course of two Blogs i have given you a sense of the place (even if it was mostly about beer and football, sorry...). Whether it be the football, the beer, the pubs/bars, the culture, the history, there is a lot to love about Berlin.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Welcome to Stone Berlin

The welcome sign at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens - Berlin

The view inside (full disclosure - none of my pictures will do the place justice).

Eight hours in one venue in a city as eclectic as Berlin probably tells you everything you need to know, in fact, I could have stayed till closing time (which is midnight and I arrived at noon). The inclement weather proved to be a real bonus, that, and the rest of the stag party turning up at different times throughout the day. There'll be a second blog along soon detailing the rest of the weekend in Berlin and in particular a visit to another craft brewer. (One of my brother lives in Germany and is getting married later this year, hence the stag weekend)
What to say about this cathedral to beer? Well, I guess the first thing to try and get across is the sheer scale of the place, it is enormous, not big, bloody enormous in fact! Located at the site of a historic gasworks facility in the Mariendorf neighbourhood of Berlin, it seems as if no expense has been spared on both the exterior and interior decoration. Plenty of seating, loads of tables (with and without service) and seating at the bar (which is where I spent most of my time, as close as possible to the taps). It feels like you could fit a football pitch in and still have space left over! There are mezzanine levels, private tap areas and a room for private dining, I went for a good wander round and was just in awe of the place. Clientele was made up of men, women, children, young and old, it felt a very comfortable place to be in, with music playing in the background which definitely matched the slightly eclectic feel of the place, and, because the speakers were attached to the rafters, shouting at each other was optional rather than mandatory (thanks Stone, appreciate that).


(All the taps!)

The beers..........there are 50 on tap, over half of them from Stone, with around 10-15 of them being brewed in Berlin, mere feet away from where they are served, who doesn't want brewery fresh beer eh? The only disappointment for me was that the Go To IPA had run out!, yes, seriously, it had all been drunk (blame the official opening three nights before I got there - damn).

However, as previously stated I spent 8 hours there, best I share my beery highlights:
IPA Dry-Hopped w/Callista Hops - Unfiltered (Nice subtle citrus notes coming through, dry finish, easy drinking bitterness)
Den Gottern Dammert's Ein Bisschen IPA (Very easy drinker of an IPA)
Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0 (Brewery fresh.....bloody brilliant)
Stone IPA (No comment required)
2008 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine (Red wine barrel aged barleywine....yummy!)
There were other beers drunk and I revisited one or two of the above also, but, all of the above scored 3.75/5 or above on Untappd, hence the mention.

The service was top notch and a special shout out to Matt (I'm sure that was his name) who looked after us for the bulk of the day, really appreciated his time and knowledge (and the sample tasters, not sure my brother and his mate appreciated the one with jalapeno in it!).

This will become a destination place to visit for a lot of people, I suggest that you become one of those people, you'll love the experience - guaranteed.

(One of the two dishes I had while I was at the bar)

(Finally, me at the bar - natural pose)