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.......)

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Bruges - Beer, what else is there?

Around Bruges in 80 Beers written by Chris 'Podge' Pollard and Siobhan McGinn was the first item I packed before Michelle and I went to Bruges for New Year. I should point out that I am a bit out of date though, the book pictured above is the second edition published in 2009 rather than the third edition published in 2013.
The "Around in 80 Beers" series of books include London, Brussels, Berlin and Amsterdam. I find them incredibly useful guides, not only in relation to beers, bars, but, also food, general information and history.
Some of my tips below feature in the edition I was using, a few others are ones we found that I'd like to share. All of these are on, or very near the main square, and, were personally vetted by us (tough job).

@The Pub 4 Hallestraat - Off the square, a small bar, but one which had a lovely friendly feel to it. Over 100 beers available on tap or in bottle. Well worth a visit, but, could be busy on a weekend evening. Michelle chose a lovely beer in here - Viven Porter (less said about the aniseed fuelled rubbish I sampled the better).

2be 53 Wollestraat - Tourist central! Home to the Wall of Beer, containing over 1,700 different Belgian beers, some of which are available in the small (usually crowded) bar at the back. Has two floors of beers and gifts that you can buy on your way out, take a look around, I reckon you'll find something you must have! We had hot chocolate here, love Belgian hot chocolate, especially on a crisp cold January day.
Brugs Beertje 5 Kemelstraat - This place WILL be busy, pretty much regardless of the time of day you arrive (you have been warned). The reputation of this bar precedes it, as much for the landlady (who is sadly leaving) as the beer list, which contains around 250 choices. We went for the dark beers plus cheese and ham toasties, it was a good afternoon/early evening. My top beer here was Prearis Quadrocinno, a coffee infused Belgian Quad.

Delaneys (previously Celtic Ireland) 8 Burg - We went here so we could watch Liverpool v Man City (ok, might have been more about me than Michelle). An Irish pub that has a few screens, shows all the football, and, serves food all day. I had a few glasses of the local Straffe Hendrik which is a seriously good Abbey Tripel from Halvemaan. For the record, we beat Man City 1-0, probably the last match where we played ok and deserved the win.

Duvelorium Grand Beer Café Historium Brugge Markt 1 8000 Brugge - A quick visit here, as the name suggests it is a Duvel owned and inspired bar. Decent beer list, and, a stunning view of the square from the balcony. I imagine during the summer that those seats outside go very quickly.

Bier Museum Breidelstraat 3 / 8000 Brugge - We went here twice, once to the bar and two days later, the actual museum itself. This is a Palm lead bar, with a good choice of beers available, although nothing too challenging, in my opinion. Taster paddles can be purchased at the bar, or, as part of your museum ticket if you choose that option. I think the bar closes at 6, with the museum closing a bit earlier.
The museum was worth the entrance fee, you get an iPad and headphones which provides you with the interactive element (you point the camera at the various pictures and you get the option to read or listen to information). There's also a quiz, which was good fun, I managed 16/20. The museum is spread out a couple of floors, look out for the photos on the walls of the stairwell, they really are very good.

Jilles Beer & Burgers Braambergstraat 10, 8000 Bruges - Now for the food, if you fancy something non traditional, then why not go a burger joint. Not any old burger joint, this establishment opened in 2010 and offers a wide range of burgers and beers, with the menu offering burger and beer pairing suggestions. Beware though, none of the suggestions are "sessionable". The burgers are delicious, and, if you are in Bruges with children, then this restaurant is definitely an option for you.
The Bottle Shop Wollestraat 13, 8000 Bruges - Lastly, you are going to want some beer take home aren't you? As noted above, 2be has a wide range of beers, but, I would also suggest visiting the Bottle Shop. I purchased beers in both places as some of the ones I wanted were only available in one or the other, also prices do differ, so, if counting the euros take a look in both places before you buy. Also, the Carrefour shops all stock beers, choice depends largely on size of the shop, although the Express at Brussels station is always a good emergency stop if required.

I love Bruges, I love the beer, and, I quite like the food and chocolate too, and, the scenery at times is simply stunning. We had a lovely time.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Let the festivals begin

What festivals are you looking forward to over the next few months?
Well, here are the ones I will be attending between now and the start of April.

This week, it's a trip up north and my first visit to the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival, which runs from 19th to 21st January and is held at the Manchester Central Convention Complex Ltd, for further details, please follow this link
I've heard very good things about this festival in the past and I look forward to finding some new beers and breweries, if you're around, say hi, I will be there with Beer O'Clock Show Steve (we should be wearing our Hopinions tee shirt, if we have remembered to pack them). Also, I believe those guys from a little known brewery by the name of Cloudwater might have some cask beers on, all part of the "Goodbye to cask" tour, perhaps the comeback tour is already in the planning? Fellow podcasters Beernomicon will be there and hoping to catch up with blogger and hero of Manchester Beer Week Connor Murphy (although now that he has been name checked by Roger Protz, he might not speak to the likes of us).

Next up, and, still in Jan, it's a visit to my local winter beer festival, which kicks off Wed 25th Jan and finishes up Sat 28th. Held in the town centre, it's easily accessible by public transport and is held in an old church, further details can be found here
As you can see from the link, it is a Camra festival.....I know many people have strong views one way or another about Camra (I do too), but, this isn't an opinion piece, maybe one day I will put something down in writing about my relationship with this organisation that I am a long time member of. A good range of local beers will be on offer, plus some from further afield, also, it's cashless (you pay £10 for a token card) and if you want, you can donate the remainder to a local charity. My main gripe is the bloody half pint tankards, I never fail to take the damn things home, only to then realise I really do not have the space (they don't stack!).

Staying in Essex, it's time for the Chelmsford Winter Beer Festival, another Camra offering, but, probably double the size of the Colchester one. This one runs from Wed 15th Feb to Sat 18th, all the details can be found here
The venue is the King Edward IV Grammar School (KEGS), who says us Camra folk don't have a sense of humour?!?! Always a good range of beers at this one and again very accessible by public transport, plus, only a 10 min walk from the train and bus stations. Appears to be a theme developing here, I'll be in attendance on a Thursday again, where there will undoubtedly be a few friends from the SXBottleShare present, some of them arriving earlier than me trying to drink all the Cloudwater cask (who are these guys anyway?)!

Off to The Emerald Isle for the Alltech Craft Brews and Food Festival which is taking place between 23rd and 25th Feb, I'll be there for all of it. However, this does mean I miss the National winter Ale Festival in Norwich and Craft Beer Rising in London, both of which would most certainly have been on my radar. That being said I am very much looking forward to this one, especially after my visit to Dublin last November. Also, catching up with the Irish Beer Snobs is always fun, see you soon guys.

Ok, well that's looking pretty good so far, 2 in Jan and 2 in Feb. Question is, what about March?

There is the London Drinker Beer & Cider Festival in Kings Cross, but, unfortunately it is far from being a favourite of mine, I think having to leave during the afternoon to return again later annoyed me, lost my enthusiasm during the break.

March could be dry from a festival point of view........oh well, there's always Wetherspoons, where every day is a beer festival!! (Where did I put those 50p vouchers??)

PS - Thanks for the picture Clayton.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Golden Pints 2016

Best UK Cask Beer:
Ghost Ship by Adnams, when it's on top form it is a wonderful session pale ale, bags of flavour and really showcases what cask can and does bring to the table (luckily I can usually get this beer fairly easily, living as I do in North Essex, an hour or so away from Southwold).
Hophead by Dark Star, Landlord by Timothy Taylor, Citra by Oakham and anything on cask by Elusive Brewing are also worthy of a mention.

Best UK Keg Beer:
Neck Oil by Beavertown, despite not having been to the Beavertown tap room (shame on me) I have now started to discover this in other London establishments, and I love it just as much as the canned version, a low abv beer to saviour.
Honourable mention to Sambrooks for their IPA (modern robust English version), despite being a bit punchy at 6.2% it is very drinkable.

Best UK Bottled Beer:
Three’s Company – Cloudwater, put me in mind of DIPA V3, but, so very much more rounded and drinkable, and, let's face it the DIPA V3 was a great beer.
Unhuman Cannonball 2016 & BTD 04.11.2016 (and to Buxton for Yellow Belly, which I first sampled after I had written my Golden Pints 2015) were also beers of outstanding quality.
Also, a special shout out to The Kernel, who consistently deliver great bottled beers.

Best UK Canned Beer:
Beavertown – Bloody ‘Ell, this beer delivers every year, and, 2016 was no exception.
Dead Pony Club by Brewdog (Still one of the best low abv beers around), Cannonball by Magic Rock (ever consistent) and usually anything from Four Pure (#trainbeers) were worthy contenders.

Best Overseas Draught:
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Consistent quality and available in bars that wouldn't always be my first choice for beers, for this I am grateful.

Best Overseas Bottled/Canned Beer:
Bourbon County Brand Stout (2016) 14.5%, this was delicious fresh from the keg, and, I should know, I drank quite a bit, allegedly......
Cuivre (Bourbon Barrel Aged) by Le Bruery (16.2% of delicious sumptuous beer courtesy of Justin @ SXBottleshare) and Jai Alai by Cigar City (delivered fresh from Florida courtesy of Steve), also, Resin by Sixpoint, great value at your local Wetherspoons.

Best Collaboration Brew:
Three’s Company – Cloudwater, Magic Rock and JW Lees - see earlier comments.
Tropic Blunder by Buxton & BeerBods, a brilliantly well balanced pineapple infused pale ale (quite possibly one of my favourite BeerBods beers EVER).

Best Overall Beer:
Three’s Company – Cloudwater (did you not guess?). No further comment necessary, well, apart from I hope that they brew it again in the future, please someone, make it happen.

Best Branding:
Anything from Beavertown. The Lupuloid cans look great, having said that, I can’t not mention Magic Rock cans can I? Branding continues to evolve and cans really do seem to be taking the lead.

Best Pump Clip:
Fullers London Pride, immediately recognisable, and, at times, quite comforting if in a pub with a lack of other choices.

Best Bottle Label:
The Kernel - simple and distinctive. Perhaps could even be considered a design classic already.
This is the same as last year, and, nothing I have seen in 2016 has changed my mind.

Best Supermarket:
M&S – Great selection in main stores and the choice at the train stations is also pretty impressive, often the supplier of my #trainbeer - Four Pure Session IPA or NMBC New World IPA.

Best UK Brewery:
Cloudwater – Simply because I seem to have a beer from them on a weekly basis (Michelle, my girlfriend does love a fluffy cloud), and, why do I have so many beers from them - simple really, variety and consistency - top notch.
Shoutout to Buxton, Magic Rock, Adnams and Fullers - there's a place in my beery world for new and old alike if they continue to produce beer I love.

(Behind these unassuming doors the Cloudwater magic happens)

Best Overseas Brewery:
Cantillon. I have long been a fan of Cantillon, and, have done the tour/tasting a couple of times, but, after attending the Quintessence in May this year, my love for them was cemented, you can read about my experience here.

Best New Brewery Opening 2016:
Elusive Brewing – Andy Parker smashing it in 2016, getting rave reviews all over the place.
Shoutout for Essex Real Ale, otherwise known as Mark Watson (friend of SXBottleshare).

Pub/Bar of the Year:
The Ale House in Chelmsford, the home of the SXBottleshare. Without this place, and their support, we would not be approaching our 2nd anniversary in Feb 2017. And, off the back of that, I now have a wider circle of very good friends.
Mentions for the Hop Beer Shop in Chelmsford, The Victoria in Colchester and The Globe near work. Also, The Parcel Yard at Kings Cross remains one of my favourite pubs in London, and, a place I visit regularly.

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2016:
Stone Berlin - I waxed lyrical about Stone here, well, I went on about it, a lot! My visit there in Sep remains a highlight of my beery year in 2016.

Beer Festival of the Year:
Craft Beer Rising & Cantillon Quintessence - Can't split these two, both very different festivals, but, both well organised/executed and, if you can get to either or both, do so! It does have to be said that I did rather fall off the cliff at Craft Beer Rising, but, what I do remember, can be read about here.
Mentions - Indy Man & Birmingham Beer Bash, plus the old favourites that are the Chappel Beer Festival the Harwich Town Brewery Beer Festival.

Independent Retailer of the Year:
Liquorice in Shenfield has become a firm favourite with me this year, especially as it is only 5 mins from the train platform. Shenfield is a busy junction on my train line and affords me the ability (if I time it right and the train operator uses the timetable) to hop off, pick up the beers, and hop back on the next train. However, all of that practicality would be of little use if the selection was pants, I can assure you it isn't. Traditional bottled beers, especially those from local breweries such as Brentwood share shelf space with the likes of Beavertown, Kernel and Magic Rock. Keep up the great work Dan.
Hops Burn & Black is also worthy of a mention, simply because of the fun times I have had there when the Beer O'Clock Show live shows were recorded. Great selection of beers and your hosts, Glen and Jen couldn't be friendlier, go visit if you can.

Online Retailer of the Year:
ABM - They were my winner last year and they remain number one for me, largely because of the service they provide when I am running a work beer tasting event, tops, thanks guys. Also, their shop front in Billericay has been host to a few SXBottleShare Xtra events this year, all of which have been thoroughly enjoyable.

Best Taproom:
Wylam has leapt into the number one position from out of nowhere. This was the starting point of the crimbocrawl this year and what an amazing start it was too. The location, the building inside and out all stunning. Put me in mind of Stone Berlin, but, what this place has is the view from the inside looking out, simply lovely. But what about the beer? I like Wylam beers and there are plenty to choose from, cask and keg alike with a decent bottle selection from some very good breweries tucked away in their fridges. If you go to Newcastle - a must do.

(Prat in the Hat - Beer O'Clock Show Steve wilfully ruining my picture)

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer:
Sparkyrite - Simply for making me laugh, whether it be beer related or not, who cares?

Best Beer Blog / Website:
Beer Compurgation by Mark Johnson for being incisive and cutting in equal measure, but, still entertaining. This is a blogger who takes no prisoners, friend or foe alike. And, he started a trend #fishmosaic.
Too many others to mention honourably (or otherwise), but, you know who you are (listed on my blog page) and I look forward to reading your beery posts in 2017.

Beer Podcast of the Year:
Until Mark & Steve stopped - Beer O'Clock Show was something I looked forward to on a Friday at 6pm, and, I am honoured to have become associated in some small part in the shape of Hopinions.
Therefore, the winner is Steve & Roland's Beer Podcast, short snappy reviews of the weekly BeerBods beer (there you go, my short snappy reason for them winning).
Honourable mention for Beernomicon, these guys have to date released 16 podcasts and  have enjoyed them all, although I have to admit, the ones where they crack open their Mikkeller cases have been my favourites so far! And, as always, I love the interaction between Wayne and Janice aka The Irish Beer Snobs (also, a shame that Michael Lally has stopped his Bush Craft podcasts, maybe they will return one day).

Who knows where we will be in 12 months time, but, it's been fun looking back at 2016.

That's all folks - Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Goodbye Butlins, Hello Dublin

(Handsome bunch)

A new era has dawned (and no, I am not talking about Brexit or Trump's victory), the yearly trip to Butlins and all that entails has been consigned to history by my friends and I (we had a good run, the first trip was 2004 after all), it is time to explore a world away from the beer desert that is Bognor Regis.
So, goodbye Butlins, hello Dublin.
There's a lot to see and do in Dublin so let's get on with it!
First stop - Beer and lunch in an Irish pub, fortunately, Talbot Street (where our hotel was situated), offered such an establishment, The Celt. It was an Irish pub, with "Irishness" oozing out of every exposed brick and wooden beam. This is what we had come for. We were happy. A couple of hours passed by rather too quickly, until I reminded everyone that we were going to the The Open Gate Brewery at 5 via a pub where the Guinness had been recommended to me - The Bankers (Thanks Wayne aka The Irish Beer Snob ). Well, we duly sampled the Guinness, by that, I mean we had a couple of pints. It was nice enough, but sadly no better than the black stuff I drink on March 17th every year in North London with the family (another illusion shattered).
It had started to rain, but, being hardy souls, we decided to brave it and walk the mile or so to the Open Gate Brewery (like hell, we got taxis!!). Arriving in the second taxi first, three of us entered the building, set up camp, ordered our beers, and, started drinking, lovely. The group in the first taxi arrived around 15 mins later, they had a driver who "knew" exactly where they needed to be dropped off and it wasn't the place they had asked for, well, that worked out well. Finally, all 6 of us were together with our 4 samples chosen from a range brewed on site as part of their experimental program, this was a good moment - a choice of drinks and no plastic glasses, look at us go.
Now it's fair to say that all six of us are at different points on our beery journey - Karl enjoys trying new beers, both cask and keg, the others are willing to go with my suggestions, but, will usually end up with their default choices of alcoholic beverages. But, this is ok, these guys are mates from a time when my beery journey meant a walk to the bar and back, our annual weekend away isn't about that, so, I was a happy chap as they are good enough friends and are willing to indulge my geeky side.
We didn't all choose the same beers, but, we did find them all interesting if not always to our palate (Nitro IPA definitely wasn't a favourite for me, disgusting stuff).
We moved on and carried on drinking for a few more hours, pausing briefly at a Galway Bay Beer bar - The Beer Market, well worth a visit, our stay was all too brief.
After a lovely full Irish breakfast, Saturday saw us go on an open top bus tour, starting at O'Connell Street. I can fully recommend it as an ideal way to see much of the city in a short space of time, although we managed to stretch it out to around 6 hours stopping as we did for Guinness & lunch at Nancy Hands and Irish Coffee and rugby at O'Sullivans, followed by a visit to JW Sweetman where the word craft was not used sparingly, it was front and centre, the beers however, were on the whole a let down.
However, I was very excited about how Sat eve was going to kick off - Brew Dock, another Galway Bay bar was only 30 seconds from the hotel, however if you used Google Maps it was around a 10 min walk down every road other than the one we needed! With our collective thirst well and truly worked up, it was a delight to enter Brew Dock.
(All the taps!)
Four us availed ourselves of the tasting paddles and some very nice beers were sampled (highlights for me - Stormy Port, a rich thick porter and Goin' Out West, a West Coast DIPA that delivered everything you'd want from the style) before we headed to Temple Bar which was absolutely mobbed with numbers topped up by rugby fans.
Three of us - Neil, Karl and myself revisited Brew Dock the next day before our bus back to the airport and finished off the remaining Galway Bay beers available that we hadn't drank the night before.
We all enjoyed our two days in Dublin,  and I for one would have loved to have explored a bit more of the craft beer scene. What I did learn was just how Guinness, Dublin and Ireland and intertwined and the Guinness site is simply vast but there is a varied and interesting beer scene that I will be revisiting next Feb (more research).
Finally, as ever, I enjoyed my weekend away with the "boys", here's to 2017.

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