Thursday, 18 May 2017

"Go To" Beers - Behind the headlines

Recently I shared my top 10 beers (number of check-ins on Untappd), here's the list (correct as of 15th May 2017) plus number of check-ins per beer.
1. Adnams Ghost Ship - Total: 71
2. Fullers London Pride - Total: 52
3. Guinness Draught - Total: 48
4. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.Pale Ale - Total: 47
5. Brewdog Punk IPA - Total: 43
6. Oakham Ales Citra - Total: 41
7. Adnams Jack Brand Dry Hopped Lager - Total: 40
8. Stella Artois - Total: 39
9. Adnams Jack Brand Mosaic Pale Ale - Total: 35
10. Peroni Nastro Azzurro - Total: 33
I received some interesting feedback/comments:

Irishbeersnob I don't ritually check in every beer on untappd but have been pondering this as I've been a bit of a tart in that I try everything. Need to settle on go to beer I think. Cos all is a bit broad.
s_maxfield I just love trying new beers, so don't have many go to beers and tend not to check in beers that often when I've already had them, as I generally use untapped to keep a log of the different beers I've had, but according to untapped the ones I've had most are Beavertown - Bloody 'Ell, Magic Rock - Cannonball and Cantillon Gueze 100% Lambic Bio. I'm pretty happy with those being go to beers!
Gammonbaron I don't check more than one per day unless I change venue (since Dec 2012). Punk IPA: 40
Cannonball: 26
Leeds Yorkshire Gold: 18
Centennial IPA: 18
Landlord: 12
Mccarthythomas Why do you keep entering beers you've already rated?
longm8 My most checked in beers on @untappd Member since December 2014 Cheers to @mjpo007 for the idea, apparently I'm more craft than you too
jonbainbridge1991 Big up the @adnams
trodat92 Not sure I’d admit to Ghost Ship....
longm8 @trodat92 why? It's excellent, and besides @mjpo007 has Stella and Guinness in his, which is pretty hilarious for a craft podcaster
trodat92 @longm8 Stella....that would make me blush. I enjoy your posts about beer generally though. :)
Boak and Bailey Interestingly uninteresting list -- the beers we drink most aren't necessarily the ones we blog/Tweet/Instagram.

Thanks to everyone who provided feedback and/or passed comment (and yes, I did respond to the Ghost Ship and "craft podcaster" comments!)
Perhaps at this point, I should add a bit of context to the numbers above, my unique check-in count sits at 3,178 with total check-ins almost double that. So, what do these numbers tell us? Firstly, since I joined Untappd in May 2013, I have drunk a lot of beer and a lot of different beers, that much is obvious! But, it also tells me that my top 10 "go to" beers still make up a small percentage of my total beer intake which would seems to indicate that I echo Sarah Maxwell's "I just love trying new beers" sentiment. Also, none of the "go to" beers above would make the top 10 based on my Untappd rating (a post for another time).

So, how did some beers get in the top 10? Let's start with Adnams, firstly I am a massive fan of their beers and the vast majority of their pubs, secondly their beers are easy for me to get hold of - local pubs and Co-Ops, inter city trains to Norwich, and Adnams shops. Last but by no means least, Ghost Ship was my cask beer of 2016
(Golden Pints 2016) so when I see it on cask I go for it, ignoring other options on the bar. To my mind, a "go to" beer has to be one I like, but, also one I trust to deliver time and again.
Fuller's London Pride and Peroni aren't often paired (or is that blended?) in sentence, but, what these two offerings have in common is that they are the "house" beers at work. Whenever there is any sort of gathering and pre or post drinks are on offer, these two feature heavily. Do I like them? Yes. Are they great? No. Although in defence of Peroni it is as consistent in the bottle as it is on draft. London Pride in the bottle is not as good as the cask version, but, it serves a purpose and stops me necking the red wine!
Guinness - Once a year, on the 17th March, my parents, my brothers, and I visit North London, near where we grew up and where Mum and Dad got married, and drink copious amounts of Guinness. Those 4 days plus a few other times where Guinness is by far and away the best choice helps to explain its placing in my top ten.
I have a couple of good friends I meet up with regularly and they have a fondness for the All Bar One near Liverpool Street station and to be fair I don't mind it too much. There's usually some meal deal available and very handy for the train home. However, once I discovered they had Sierra Nevada on draft I was made up, one of my early craft beers (after the ubiquitous Jaipur) that I still enjoy supping, done might even call it a smashable beer!
BrewDog Punk IPA, not too much to say really. I enjoy it regardless of dispense method and I like their bars, and in London anyway I have started to see it on tap in some rather unexpected places and it ticks the two boxes of the "go to" beer for me - I enjoy it and it's consistently good.
The biggest surprise in my top ten is Stella Artois, I really wasn't sure how this had happened. Don't get me wrong, I like it, it's long been in my repotaire, pre pre pre craft days you understand. The last time I remember sinking a few of these was a friend's 40th (same evening after I had been to Indy Man for the first time, how's that for a contrast?), but other than then I can't, I decided to look at some previous Untappd checkins. Some checkins from Butlins Bognor, some from The O2 when I saw the Premier League Darts Final and a few in establishments near the office that don't do cask or craft. Lo and behold, it's made the top 10!
Last, but by no means least is Oakham Citra. Not sure how much of an introduction this needs, but, for me it is simply one of the best cask beers around, it is also very nice from the bottle and I have always been a big fan of the version they produce for M&S (now in cans). It is also the first beer that I can recall that was produced using the one hop variety and putting that front and centre. 
So, there you have it, my top ten "go to" beers plus a bit of an insight as to how they made it there. 
I'd really like to hear what others think and what are your "go to" beers, whatever measure or standard you choose to use to decide that. I simply love personal stats (running for example, I have records of all my races since 1986 and I know all my personal bests across a range of distances). Guess that just reinforces the feeling that I am, at a heart, a bit of a geek! 
Cheers one and all.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

What are your "go to" beers?

According to Untappd, which I joined in May 2013, the 10 beers below are the ones I have checked in the most.
I've done no analysis on my top 10 "go to" beers, but, there are a few surprises in there I must admit!

Adnams Ghost Ship - Total: 71

Fullers London Pride - Total: 52

Guinness Draught - Total: 48

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.Pale Ale - Total: 47

Brewdog Punk IPA - Total: 43

Oakham Ales Citra - Total: 41

Adnams Jack Brand Dry Hopped Lager - Total: 40

Stella Artois - Total: 39

Adnams Jack Brand Mosaic Pale Ale - Total: 35

Peroni Nastro Azzurro - Total: 33

I'll do a deep dive on these numbers in the near future, could turn up some more surprises!

Monday, 17 April 2017


Beerz, in Cherbourg has only been open a month, but you'd never know it. The owner, Christele Zamprogno has created a wonderful welcoming celebration of world beers.
Michelle spotted this oasis to beer (I was single-mindedly marching us towards a brewpub I had spotted earlier when we had a mid morning coffee).
(Trying to discover my inner coffee self)
However, once inside Beerz, any thought of coffee soon disappeared, well sort of......
Black Ale India Stout at 8% was the standout beer (we tried a few between us), from La Debauche. Light in taste, and texture, but dark of colour. Easy drinking stout (4.25/5). Michelle absolutely loved this one, so much so we bought two home.
Feeling a bit peckish, we decided that cheese and bread would be a very good idea (meat was also available).
There was a small tap list and a range of beers available to drink in store, and as you can see a vast range of beers to buy to take away.
Neatly arranged by style, there were also some local ciders available, I tried a nice light 4% one from Normandy. However, all good things must come to an end (we easily spent three hours in there, during which time a steady stream of beer enthusiasts came and went).
So, we bid farewell to Christele and wished her all the best for the future. If you are in the Cherbourg area in the future, pop in, you certainly won't regret it.

Beerz website is under construction ( and currently there is no Twitter account, but, you can look up the shop on Facebook and Instagram. 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

To Dublin and Back

The Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fair in Dublin held between from the 23rd to 25th Feb had been in the diary for around 6 months, and, having been to Dublin with friends back in November I was looking forward to a quick return. Accompanying me on this journey was Mr Beer O'Clock, Steve was making a return visit to the festival having attended in 2016 with No.1 Fan, Myles Lambert.
After a surprisingly pleasant experience (a few beers at 'Spoons helped) at Stansted and despite Storm Doris's best attempt, we arrived in Dublin in good spirits. A taxi ride to our accommodation, followed by a 30 min walk to the Dublin Convention Centre meant that we had Irish beer in hand by 5.30, not bad going at all. The first thing that struck me when I walked in was that this festival had a unique feel to it, a different flavour, certainly the set up was one I was unfamiliar with.

As you can see from the pictures there's plenty of room, and although this was early doors on the Thursday, that feeling of space never deserted me over the three days we were there. Steve described it last year as reminding him of a trade fair and I can see what he meant, however, in no way is this meant as a criticism. No doubt you will have noticed the big screen and the stage, well, there were three big screens and these came into their own on the Saturday when the rugby was on, making for a fantastic atmosphere. The stage, much to my surprise was occupied near enough on a full time basis by a variety of acts (although not while the rugby was on) throughout the festival. Now, a few of you who listen to the Hopinions podcast on a regular basis might already know my views about music at beer festivals - I could do without it, especially when it is too loud, which on occasion it most certainly was, most notably on the Friday night. Although I will temper that by saying the acts were rather good and the noise levels did not go unnoticed by the organisers, something I think they will bear in mind in 2018. During the rugby, I thought the commentary was pitched at just the right level.

Water water, nor any drop to drink......but, wait, no this wasn't the case, not only was there water, there was also rinsing stations - GO ALLTECH! Love the bloody lot of you, simply for getting this bit so right. Another benefit of the venue - toilets, lots of them, there was also a breakout area near the entrance which was a nice touch.

WHAT ABOUT THE BEERS? I hear you cry.....well, here goes!
My beer of the festival was The Hare And the Hag by The White Hag Irish Brewing Company in collaboration with Kinnegar, a simply divine Irish Coffee Nitro Stout - Smooth, coffee, chocolate, velvety were just a few of the words I used to describe it.
All the beers I tried from McGargles impressed me, so much in fact that I definitely visited them everyday and sometimes twice in one session (interesting fact - they brought their tap room bar with them to the festival). The Little Bangin' IPA, Francis' Big Bangin IPA and Double Bangin' IPA coming in at 3.8%, 7.1% & 8% respectively were all great examples of the West Coast style of IPAs. Sessionable in terms of flavour profile, these beers were really well balanced and I definitely tried them more than once!
Wild Bat Garage Days, an American Pale Ale was my favourite APA of the festival, a respectable 5%, that kept me company during the Ireland v France 6 Nations match.
The Full Irish from 8 Degrees Brewing weighed in at 6% and had been recommended to me by a few people and they weren't wrong, held it's own against the other IPAs I had enjoyed, lovely dry bitter finish too.
Trouble Brewing had a good range available but the best for me was the Sabotage IPA, leaned slightly to the British style of IPA rather than the US, but, it was still fruity, hoppy with a dash of sweetness.
The Oatmeal IPA Limited Edition No.5 from Hope Beer was a little different, but, very drinkable, well balanced with a soft mouthfeel.
Now, the next beer might surprise you, it's Proper Job from the guys at St. Austell, on keg it was blinding, if you see it, try it (it was my first experience of the keg version and I loved it).
Boyne provided me with a couple of corkers - a West Coast IPA at 6.8%, bags of flavours and aromas that you associate with the style, bitter finish. The Imperial Stout Sherry Cask at 10.8% was an incredibly smooth Russian Imperial Stout, no rough edges. Sweet subtle chocolate notes. There were other versions too, this was the best though.
Last, but, by no means least was Shanco Dubh Porter Barrel Aged from Brehon Brewhouse at 8.8%, this was a cask dispensed beer (the only one I think) - smooth chocolate boozy hit.
The above are merely the highlights, there were plenty of other beers I sampled and on the whole I found that the modern breed of Irish brewers know their stuff and are producing some really good/great beers. I'm hopeful that they'll start to export to the UK with a bit more regularity (Ireland Craft beers and Honest Brew are starting to make inroads).

Now for a mixture of disclaimer and thanks......To all of the brewers who took the time to speak to us, sharing their thoughts and knowledge, as well as their good humour - thank you (oh yeah, and thanks for the beers too, especially the ones I didn't pay for!). To fellow bloggers and beer enthusiasts, it was a pleasure to meet you all. To the organisers for inviting us and sorting our press passes, Tracey and Aoife for looking after us over the course of the three days and for sorting the room so that we could podcast with the lovely and wonderful Irish Beer Snobs. It was a real pleasure to spend so much time with them on the Friday and Saturday, they introduced us to just about everyone I think!

Lastly, apologies for the delay in writing up this post, having never attended a festival in it's entirety I didn't really know where to start. I hope it's given you a sense of just how much I enjoyed myself, which leaves me with only one thing left to say I guess - Sláinte.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Coventry - who knew?

I know of Coventry because they used to have a football team that was in the First Division (pre Premier League for those under a certain age), and I also remember watching them famously beat Spurs in the 1987 FA Cup. I also know that the city suffered terrible damage during WWII. And, I know it's sort of where the Midlands starts for a Southerner. That's about it, the sum total of my knowledge of Coventry. Then I found out they had a brewery.....
Now, I am assume there must be more than one brewery in Coventry and a quick scan of Google appears to indicate that this is the case, however, one brewery in particular seemed to me to be making headlines - Twisted Barrel. These guys are but three years old, starting out small as many do, then finding that people liked what they were brewing, decided to make the decision to go commercial. More success followed which in turn led them to FarGo Village which is about 20 mins walk from the train station (maybe a bit more if using Google Maps). The brewery and tap house sit comfortably amongst an eclectic collection of shops and cafes and on a spring day the whole place had a pleasant and relaxed vibe about it.
On this journey of discovery I was accompanied by my youngest brother, Brian, who lives in the beer desert that is Milton Keynes, also where my parents live. So, having left my sleeping teen son in the safe hands of his grandparents we made the short 25 min train journey to Coventry, a first for both of us. We were both impressed with what we saw inside and outside of the brewery and tap house and despite us arriving shortly after the noon opening, we were not the first ones in there. Already there were a few punters, plus a tasting session taking place at the back amongst the lovely shiny tanks.
We started off with a wheat beer, perfect after the journey - The Great Went at 4% was light and refreshing with a light banana nose, which avoided the slight cloyingness that this style of beer sometime exhibits. At this point we were joined by @ThaBearded1 lover of beards, bunnies, bikes & beer and also just happens to work with the guys at Twisted Barrel. Full Disclaimer - He's a lovely chap! We shared a few beers before he had to leave to go to a tap take over and new bar launch in Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes (things are looking up) from the guys as The Biergarten in Wolverton. One of which was Beast of a Midlands Mild, which reminded me of an old fashioned vanilla choc ice coming in at 3.5%. While I was contemplating trying to find somewhere to purchase a choc ice, we were joined by another beery person - @TheAleLady who was out with her mother after all it was Mother's Day weekend, during which time another two beers were consumed (Saison From Another Place and Hmmmm) before Brian and I decided we needed to pay Beer Gonzo a visit.
A short taxi ride past the station and we find ourselves in a rather large bottle shop with a very nice modern tap room at the back, and just look at those taps! Again, I had heard quite a bit about these guys so although we only had an hour before getting our train back to Milton Keynes we felt it was definitely worth the effort. First beer up was on the recommendation of aforementioned Bearded One (his real name is Karl, but, hey who uses real names these days??) - Cuvee Sofie by Alvinne a wild sour that comes in at 8% was simply divine, as good as Mariage Parfait (which I rate very highly), or, perhaps even better. As you can see there are serious ABVs available so 1/3 pints were the order of the day, plus with time constraints it meant we could sample a couple more - I went for Common Grounds from Magic Rock, followed by Evil Twin's Citrus Sunshine (which as it happened weren't that strong anyway, what was I thinking??)
My only regret of the day was that we simply did not spend enough time in either venue, and, trust me, we could have spent plenty of time in both. It seems Coventry and the Midlands in general are stepping up in terms of variety of beers to drink and venues to enjoy them in. Go visit, you won't regret it, and, as ever another beery trip reinforced my opinion that beer people are good people, cheers all!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

How did the beer festivals go?


January and February are gone, and we are well into March....I attended the four festivals I alluded to in this post Let The Festivals Begin, so, I guess I should write a few words about them.
In order of attendance......
My first visit to the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival held Thurs 19th to Sat 21st Jan was bloody awesome! Actually, I could just leave it there, as it summed up how I felt about it on the night, the day after and it is still how I feel about it. The organisers got so many things right. The location - Manchester Central Convention Complex was previously a train station but I am sure quite a few people will remember it as the G-MEX Centre, a music concert venue which was very popular in the 80s & 90s. Dominating the view once you enter the hall were the brewery bars, they occupied the centre space, with the foreign beer bar and "others" at the back of the hall. Plenty of seating was available and a decent food choice was on offer. So far so good, what about the beer I hear you ask? Brilliant. Only one beer disappointed us and that was chosen by me (went by the name, bit like when I pick a horse, sorry Steve), but rather than list all of the good beers I had I will simply tell you that Track Sonoma was the best of the evening. Not only did it tick all the boxes - hops, aroma, flavour, bitterness all in fantastic balance,, Track had it on cask and wait for it, keg. Yes, you read that right. A CAMRA beer festival had a beer available on keg. What a joy it was to try both versions side by side, and you know what? The earth continued to turn on its axis.

Next up was the annual visit to my local festival in Colchester, held at the Arts Centre from Wed 25th Jan to 28th Jan. Centrally located ensures easy access by public transport, an essential I would say for the success of any beer festival. I met up with Karl and his better half Hannah, a regular occurrence at the local festivals I must admit, also present were Clayton and Mark Watson of Watsons Brewery. Mark provided my personal highlight of the evening, when he left, he took his empty cask home, on the bus, that's what you do when you are the smallest brewer in Essex! The cask beers on offer were of a good quality (I have often stated that sometimes beer festivals offer questionable quality where the cask offerings are concerned) and presented me with a variety of styles to choose from. I dived in at the deep end - Old Chimneys Good King Henry, a Russian Imperial Stout weighing in at 9.6%. So glad I did, as it was bloody divine and not only that, it ran out shortly after, proving that you shouldn't put off to later what you can do now. Thanks to Hannah for driving me home, thereby ensuring that I didn't stay till the bitter end!
The Chelmsford WINTER Beer & Cider Festival 2017 took place from Wed 15th to Sat 18th Feb and is held at the King Edward Grammar School (yes, KEGS) which is around 10 mins walk from the train station. The SXBottleShare was well represented and my girlfriend Michelle was able to join us as the festival is held during half term. So, before I even looked at the beer list I was looking forward to this one.

Also, it was a farewell to the guy in the middle - James, he is now off travelling the world, good luck to him, he will be missed. So, what was the highlight of this festival? That's easy. Mr Steve Bentall of Beer O'Clock Show and Hopinions fame signed up to CAMRA! Although, it didn't go as smoothly as it might have done, he is now a card carrying member - welcome Steve, here's hoping you stay more than a year this time. The choice of beers was pretty fab, and if you are a cider lover, a decent selection of alcoholic apple juice was also available to you. Now some of you may remember a certain Manchester brewer stating that they were going to stop brewing cask beer, well, the goodbye tour came to Essex with three offerings, but, the best beer of the festival was Santa Meurte, an impy stout brewed by Track and Odyssey, if you see it, try it, if not, bad luck as it was superb - loads of chocolate, subtle hints of vanilla (thankfully, as I hate too much vanilla in my beers) with a satisfying level of bitterness, oh yeah and it came in at 9%.....whoops!
So, that's it, or is it? No, of course not, I went to Dublin to attend The Alltech Craft Beer Festival, however, that deserves a post all of its's still a work in progress though.

All three CAMRA beer festivals I attended in Jan and Feb have gone some way to changing my views regarding the quality of beer being served from cask on gravity - I honestly didn't have a badly dispensed beer. The option of keg in Manchester was welcome and hopefully changed a few hearts and minds - good beer is good beer regardless of the method of dispense (for the record, I thought the Track Sonoma was lifted to another level on keg).
BUT, still no bloody water readily available, how can this be so difficult? We, as an organisation promote sensible drinking yet free running water isn't readily available, also, what about when I switch between different styles of beer, surely a rinse would be a good idea? I simply do not understand.
On that bombshell, time to sign off and grab a peppermint tea (given up the proper stuff for Lent).

Apologies - I have no idea why there is a long blank space at the end of this post, nothing I do seems to correct it!!!



Thursday, 9 February 2017

SXBottleShare - 2 years on....

(Logo reproduced by kind permission of Clayton Chisholm)

Happy birthday to us
Happy birthday to us
Happy birthday dear SXBottleShare
Happy birthday to us!
Hip hip hooray, hip hip hooray!

Who knew, that 2 years ago when a group of like minded misfits (sorry beer geeks) got together once a month to share some beers that we'd still be going strong? Not only that, growing and evolving. Thanks to everyone involved over the two years, it has been great fun and I have enjoyed many a good time in The Ale House, Chelmsford and many a great beer (as well as some right duds too) has been consumed. I have no doubt that The SXBottleShare has a few miles left in the tank, so, in case you are interested in popping along one evening, here's what we drank on Tuesday 7th Feb......
The comments are derived from those I wrote on the evening, and the scores are my Untappd rating.

(Not sure who took this one, but, I think it belongs to the collective....)

BBC 1 by Brentwood Brewing Company Sweet on the nose, toffee on the palate. But thin/fizzy/sweet for me. However, would like to try on cask 2.75/5.

Cream Ale by Rayner Juice Brewery Bready on the nose, lager mouthfeel, easy drinking, would benefit from being served colder 3/5.

American IPA by Rayner Juice Brewery Lemon sherbet, dry finish, drinkable. Homebrew nailed! 3.75/5.

Touro Tripel Blonde by AND UNION Newbie beer. Fruity, like a boiled sweet, deliciously smooth and mellow, no rough edges 4/5. (Welcome to the group Simon, high standard set with that beer)

This is where we depart from the normal routine, due to it being the anniversary we limit ourselves to choosing beers from the fridge in the Ale House. This provides us with a fun challenge on the night, but, also shows our thanks & gratitude to the guys without who's help this would not be possible.
Names have been placed in a glass, so, let's see who chose what.....

Sippin' Into Darkness by Lervig at Wow, what a start from Dan. Dark chocolate with a very slight alcoholic afterburn. Could have happily drunk the bottle 4.25/5.

Squashed Grape by The Wild Beer Co Julia's choice. Perfect counter point to the Lervig. Refreshing, dry, bit winey, slightly tart 3.5/5.

Primal Cut by Siren Craft Brew My choice. Distinct beer 2,900 on Untappd. Coffee, sweet, slight hint of the smoke and fruit. Drinkable. Very. 3.75/5

Extrovert IPA by Left Hand Brewing Company Clayton chose this one, and a very drinkable number it was too. Dry, piney, with a lovely aroma 3.75/5.

Rye Smile by Weird Beard Brew Co. Andrew's offering - a little underwhelming for the style/abv. Needed a bit more of everything. Nice, not stunning 3/5.

Sverd i Fjell by Lervig Reuben, who runs a local off licence bought these....delicious choice. Savoury nose, fresh taste/mouthfeel and smashable 4/5.

Orval by Brasserie d'Orval A classic chosen by Tom. Sweet, sour on the nose, very fizzy (champagne like), ever so slightly Belgiany 4/5.

Fresh Prince of Norway by Brighton Bier So, Matt went to the bar and returned with these easy drinking sweet chewy beauties 3.75/5.

Export Stout by Boundary Brewing Choices running low for Steve, but, he did alright with this one. Dark, rich and roasty, with a dry finish 3.5/5.

Special Edition - Hibernate Ardbeg BA Imperial Stout by Cloudwater Brew Co. Last one up - James, and he goes big. Sweet, smooth, luxurious but no hint of the peaty whisky 4/5.

And, that was that. Sorry, that's a complete lie, we had more beers, this tends to happen every month, definitely not an anniversary thing! So, all in all, a fabulous evening. We had podcasters, bloggers, brewers (commercial and the homely version), enthusiasts, newbies, and Tom! So, that only leaves me with one thing to say "cheers guys".

(This belongs to one of us.......)