Monday, 31 January 2011

Sunshine on Leith

Well ok I dont live in Leith any more. So its should be Sunshine on Corstorphine but thats not quite so catchy.

Today im going to discuss why the "Feed in Tarrif" scheme make solar panels a Profitable endeavour, even in "Sunny Scotland"

Here the link to the FITs info again as its worth checking out in detail

I installed a 3.6Kw system about the most i could fit on my roof. So effectively that means the Government/Energy Supplier will pay me 41.3p for every Unit I produce over the next 25 years.

Now for every unit i produce there 2 paths it can take
Path1: I use the electricity. If i use it then for each  unit I produce  i effectively save myself the 11p that it would have cost me to buy the unit  from my electricity supplier + i get paid 41p though  FITs meaning that, that Unit generated me 52p profit.

Path2: I dont use the electricity. If i dont use the electricity then i sell it back to the national grid where i will be paid 3p per unit + the 41p through FITs meaning that, that unit generated me 44p

Next up is there is reasonable data on what amount of electricity you can expect to generate for Edinburgh, and this web site allows me to see that in an average year in Edinburgh, for a house with a roof pointing 50degrees off south in a westerly direction and a roof slope of 20 degrees (the info on my house) That i can expect to generate 2650 units a year.

Now Lets assume i use half the electricity    1325 x 0.52 = £689
                                                               +1325 x 0.41 = £543

 Now the Panels will degrade over time but they are guaranteed to 80% after 25 years. But in all likely hood this will be more than balanced by the fact that FITs payment of 41.3p is index linked and Electricity costs are likely to rise above inflation. In fact with FITs rising at 2% and electricity rising at 6% a year 1200 turns into 1750 by year 25 (even with panels operating at 80%)

My installation costed a little under £15000
So effectively for a Cost of £15000 I generate £1200 or 8% return each year

Lets look at 2 examples of my return versus investing the 15000 installation cost.
If you take the 15000 and find an account that will pay 6% you will have £64000 after 25 years
If you Fit the solar panels and invest the £1200 each year into a 6% account you end up with £65000

If you take the 15000 and find an account that will pay 3% you will have £31000 after 25 years
If you Fit the solar panels and invest the £1200 each year into a 3% account you end up with £43000

 Either way you end up with more money after the 25 years. Its only if you can find a higher than 6% return on your 15000 that you might have been better off investing your money.

And none of that takes account of the fact that your contributing to a Greener Environment.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Let there be Beer

Im in no doubt that my favourite way to drink beer is sat round a table with a group of beer lovers, enjoying good beer and pleasant chat. So it was with that i mind ive started to get a tasting group together.

We have managed to get together a few times now, and as more people here about it we seem to be growing in numbers.

So it was on Friday that nine of us found ourself round my Kitchen table. It was a good mix of beer lovers ive met in the pub(Benjie and Sevare) or at beer festivals(Blair), a guy i used to work with(Mike), a few guys from rate beer(Rich and Frits who came through from Glasgow) , a visiting American beer lover and member of Beer Advocate(Jason) and me and Stella(the wife not the crap lager)

We started with a beer that Benjie and Sevare have been hunting for long time, and one that just happened to be in the hands of the Ratebeer trader (who put me in touch with Jason) and who i was involved in a trade with. This was a Belgian Beer Fantome Black Ghost (that despite being Belgian seemed only to be available in the US)  This wasnt realy my kind of beer, a light funk that i associate with Fantome but was otherwise well received.

We followed this up with a canned Norwegian Vienna, and it was pretty much what i would expect by a Vienna. Then we had a Bells Java stout kindly supplied by Frits. This was just m y kind of beer and though it had a light hint of ash it was a pretty good coffee stout.

The next beer was brought by Rich and he refused to try it again, as every one he tried it with disliked it. I decided given its unusual nature being a Garlic Beer, that i should serve this blind. Something that was almost given away when a whole garlic clove nearly fell out of the bottle. Saying that it only took a few sniffs and every one knew it was Garlic. Even if they didnt quite believe there senses. I found it oddly drinkable and it was quite a clean finish. None the less the bottle wasnt finished and i went on the next day to make quite a tasty Garlic bread using the beer.

We then had another  beer that was not really my thing but most people seemed to like Goose Island Fleur.

It was then onto a Beer id wanted to open at some of the previous tastings, but there were always people missing that i wanted to share it with. However having nine of us and having worked out that im never going to get us all together at once. Its was time to open a 08 Darklord.

Now many people think Darklord is too sweet. But i just love it. Its a beer i could drink the whole bottle of, but that would just be cruel to others. So i have to stamp down on my greed, and open it to share and its definitely a beer to share. Its one of the beers i think all beer lovers should at least try. Wonderful it was every bit as good as i remember it. Dark Rich sweet, loads of roast malts , loads of chocolate.

While this was the best beer of the night for me, there were more delights to follow. While upstairs supplying Jason with beers in return for an amazing range of beers he supplied me. He mentioned Narke Kaggen. Now i have Narke Kaggen, but ive given up on trading it, much preferring to share it with people when they visit. So there it was the Perfect beer to follow the Darklord.  Problem was spliting a 180ml bottle 9 was is a little tricky, still getting the right glasses out, i was able to split it evenly and while a bit smaller a sample than Ideal was still enough to let everyone get a feel for the beer. Now maybe it was following the Darklord or maybe it was that batch but it seemed a lot boozier than i remembered still a lovely beer, but quite heavy bourbon and for me at least not in the same league as Darklord.

Jason had a few beers on his Beer Advocate wants list, that again while i wasnt able to give him them having not tried them either, they made an easy choice of what to open. The first of these beers was a rare sour that Jason said would probably fetch $300 on ebay, but beers for drinking and it certainly didnt cost me that. Thanks to a very generousness Rate beer trader. It was Lost Abbey Veritas 003 and as expected the sour heads loved it, it was totally nonplussed

This was quickly followed by Mikkeller Funky E* a realy nice light fruity light yeasty refreshing beer, and then onto another of Jasons Wants Firestone Walker 11. This is an american Strong Ale, and im not generally fond of American Strong ales, but this was a delight, rich smooth and really quite tasty.

The pace of the evening seemed to have slowed down a bit(mostly as i was talking to much) but next up was a favourite brewery of mine and a new beer for me De Molen Stoombier Gedrooghopt Safir. This was a gusher and i was worried the beer had turned but nope, just a bit lively. Light juicy and fruity and easy drinking. Very tasty.

We then thought lets try one of the Australian ones the Benjie and Sevare Had brought back from  their trip home so i decided on a stout(no surprise there) and i for one rather enjoyed the Cascade stout. A simple but tasty stout. Then it was time for the Big Score of the evening. I was near singing and dancing when Jason told be before he was coming that he could probably get me a Goose Island BCS rare. So it was time to open this one. Now i often find the standard BCS to be too bourbony and unfortunately this one was to. However it deep rich dark and tasty and while i did enjoy it, the Bourbon overpowered and i found myself scoring it the 2nd lowest on Ratebeer.   But dont get me wrong its not a bad beer, and if another fell into my lap, id quite happily drink it up. But Imperial stout wise there are others id rather see again.

The Final beer of the evening was my choice as i wanted to try it alongside the Firestone Walker 11 and it was Firestone Walker 13. While again tasty, it was just a bit heavy for me and much more what i expected from an American Stong ale. Lots of Roast , lots of blackcurannt and raisin deep fruity tones but a little rough round the edges.

Well these one beer i missed as it appeared at some point but i forget when, and its my 2nd Favorite beer of the evening. Its one i had before. But the thing about having out of town visitors is it spurs you on to share the beers you've been saving. Now Baladin beers from whom this beer comes from have started appearing in the UK, but unfortunately not this one, its part of a series and its baladin xyauyu etichetta argento silver label, i first had the copper label version on a trip to Italy about 3-4 years ago and at the time. I was in doubts about spending £20 on a bottle of beer. Something i had never come close to before. But im glad i did. It still sitting in my Personal top5 and its a beer i love. Its a lovely sickly sweet Madeira like beer. Just sublime with a wonderful silky body

Now i said at the start this was my favorite way of drinking, but heres why.
First off i love company. Im a people person, i like spending time chatting and relaxing and just chilling. I love meeting new people. So meeting Jason was just great. One reason i loved travel was meeting al the like minded people so drinking with like minded people is just the same experience.

Then theres the beers.
The Think the Ratebeer has taught me, is that i learn so much more, when drinking with other, every one has an opinion, and you discover the things you dislike are just the things other people like, or they pinpoint a flavour than your struggling to identify. 

The next thing Rate beer has taught me is the Good beer should be shared. The greedy part of it wants it all for me, but the Generous part of me has realised that (apart from a few beers were my greed wins) there only so much you can enjoy one beer on your own. But if others are enjoying it just as much them my enjoyment is multiplied. It good to have given some one that same joy that im getting from a beer.

The last thing is pretty obvious, Bad beer should be shared, well maybe not bad beer but a beer im not enjoying is best shared as there a chance some one else will like it, and its way better they enjoy it than the beer be wasted, and of the beer is a truly bad beer, well better we all suffer together.  

So let there be friends and let there be Beer, and let us all meet again soon

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Let there be Light

Just to prove that im not Just all about beer, here a little on my Solar Panels Adventure

Ive looked into getting some form or renewable Energy a few times, but the costs involved and the payback time never seemed to make sense.

Well that all changed with the Introduction of the "Feed in Tarrif" scheme. So when i found out about that Last May. I decided the time was right to invest in Green Energy and Solar Panels

More info on the FIT Scheme can be found here

I will go into the economics of the Solar panels in a later blog but here im going to cover the 'Story' of their installation.

Having decided to GO for it. I had to pick a company. So i went hunting 3 quotes.
I choose Eco Sun Power ( both for being the best quote but also because i found them the most responsive to my queries.  Something that was to come in handy time and time again.

Next I discovered that I needed a building warrent (this seems very much of a grey area with some regions requiring one, and others not. But unfortunately it is a requirement in Edinburgh) This required first getting an Architect to work with Eco Sun power to plan the Layout of the solar panels on the roof so we could supply drawing for the Warrent, and secondly a structural engineer to prove that the roof could carry the extra load of the panels.

This for me was the most frustrating part, as i assumed it would be easy, but a combination of people on Holiday and very few previous installations to go on, lead to a lot of time being lost as we negotiated the requirements of the Warrent.

Having Finally gained our building warrent, we planned a date in December, only for the worst snow fall in 20+ years.  So delayed again we re-planned and in Late January 2011 over 9 months for the start of the project.

First up before eco sun power arrived was the Scaffolder, He arrived the day before eco sun power were due, and erected the scaffolding while i was at work. This was smooth apart from blocking the signal to the satellite dish of my neighbours, who were left a little frustrated.

The installation its self could not have gone smoother, It took them 2 and a half days to carry out the installation.

Day1: Fitting of the Rails. The Panels are mounted on a rails system. With careful measurements taken to ensure rails firmly attached the the roof joins. Rails fitted  and ensured water tight.

Day2:Panels fitted to the Rail system and some electrics carried out. This was my biggest fear. How they were to run the cable from the Panels on the room to the fuse box on the ground floor. But Eco sun power planed a route down through several built in wardrobes. Drilling down through our 1foot thick concrete floors. That left no visible signs of there work.

Day3: Connecting up and commisioning. I was out this day leaving my mum in charge, but just after lunch i received an email from the MCS commissioning scheme (MCS is needed to claim the feed in tarrif)
and with that the work was complete.

All in all the installation was very smooth, its just frustrating how difficult it was to get the Building Warrant.

Now i just need to sit back and watch as the electricity flows in

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Bow. No strings attached

For those of you who dont know. The Bow Bar is one of the Best beer bars in Edinburgh and from Thursday 27th January to Sunday 6th February 2011 there having one of the semi regular beer festivals.

Below is the beer list for the festival but let me first sing the praises of some old favourites of mine and point out a few i think are worth looking forward to.

The first must have beer in that list is one of my Favourite UK beers. Its a must have everytime you see it on cask as it doesnt appear that often, its from one of the best Scottish breweries and its Highland Orkney porter 9%. This is a dark heavy rich roast malt. light sweetness but easily drinkable. I always have bottles of this in the house. Its a beer that i trade often, and it a beer i want to see on cask more. So hip hip hurrah to the Bow for this one. Now if i can just talk Highland into filling an empty minicask i have with there 'Old Norway' i'll be a happy man

Next up is another beer i dont see often, and is also on my list of Drink every time i see it. Its much lower abv. and from a very small brewery. Im glad to see this ocassionally making it down to Edinburgh and it Deeside Talorchan 4.5%  Again its a dark sweet (you will see a patten here) roast. The first batch i had a much larger Whey character. And much as i think its a better beer with the Whey toned down. I lament this change as it was more distinct while still being a wonderful beer. But because of this change we are left with a beer that is better balanced , very tasty and wonderfully drinkable.

The third old favourite is from a well known Scottish brewery. Now its not normally a brewery that impresses me much. But this is my Joint Favourite UK stout (along side Mauldon Black Adder not featuring here)  It would also be on my must have list, but this beer is very common in Edinburgh so i know i can have it when ever the urge takes me and this one is Cairngorm Black Gold 4.4% It is every thing a stout should be.

The fourth isnt quite an old favourite but i had a bottle just a few days ago and really liked, its dark and heavy again and rich . Some ovaltine notes and dark rich very fruity body with light chocolate bitter linger and this one is Green Jack Baltic Trader 10.5%

New to me that im looking forward to.

Well the first one is an easy one. Its another Great Scottish brewer. Its a local brewer. Its a take on my favourite beer of theirs and i was lucky to get a couple of mouthfulls of the trial run. Its Stewards no3+ 4.3%. Its got a huge cinnamon nose. That wonderfully soft malty creamy mouthfeel. Just a hint of cinnamon, light capsicum and rich fruity toffee malts. Really looking forward to trying this one properly

The other beer im looking forward to is from an English brewery who ive only had ligth and hoppy beers from and theyve all been well made. So i am looking forward to there take on a stout and its Guerilla Stout 4.9% from Blue Monkey

Well here the list. Hopefully some of you will mange to pass by and try a few

All Gates. Wigan, Lancashire
Winter Meltdown (4.8%) Brewed with Maris Otter, Lager malts and Brewers Gold hops to give a light well-balanced citrus-y beer
Ayr Brewery. Ayr
Leezie Lundie (3.8%) Floral with sweet citrus and soft fruits
Rabbies Porter (4.3%) Rich, dark and malty;full-bodied and a little smoky
Beartown. Congleton, Cheshire
Bear Ass (4.0%) Ruby-red, good hop nose and dry aftertaste
Bowman. Droxford, Hampshire
Nutz (5.0%) Made with organic chestnuts; to be enjoyed in front of a roaring fire, our stove or just stood at the bar…
Black Isle. Munlochy, Ross-shire
Yellowhammer (3.9%) Light ale, hoppiness balanced by sweet aftertaste
Heather Honey (5.0%) Classic Wheat beer with some very Scottish extras
Blue Monkey. Ilkeston, Derbyshire
Guerilla Stout (4.9%) A hearty beer full of malty complexity balanced by a robust bitter bite
Brewdog. Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire
Alpha Dog (3.9%) Launching Brewdog’s newest, this session ale is just quaffable…
Rip Tide (4.1%) The little bro’ of the 8% beer ,a welcome addition to the family
Burton Bridge. Burton-on-Trent
Bramble Stout (5.0%) Rich, dark fruity stout with abundant Challenger hops
Bushy’s. Isle of Man
Oyster Stout (4.2%) This age-old recipe uses fresh oysters late on in the brewing process, giving this creamy stout a little added extra
Cairngorm. Aviemore, Highlands
Black Gold (4.4%) Roasted malt gives hints of liquorice and blackcurrant, with a long dry finish
Dark Star. Ansty, W. Sussex
Winter Meltdown (5.0%) Brewed with Chocolate and Crystal malts, bittered with Goldings hops and conditioned with ginger and spices
M&M Porter (6.5%). Seven different malts and four hop varieties ensure a very full, smoky flavour, enhanced by aging over oak
Deeside. Aboyne, Aberdeenshire
Nechtan (4.1%) Pale ale with grapefruit and lemon flavours
Talorchan (4.5%) Thick creamy stout enhanced with the addition of whey
Elgoods.Wisbech, Cambridgeshire
Thin Ice (4.7%) Full bodied and warming ale brewed with generous amounts of English hops
Fyne Ales. Cairndow, Argyll
Hurricane Jack (4.5%) Grassy, lemony hoppiness, delicate spice, clean long finish
Jarl (4.0%) Citra hops lend tones of pineapple and orange, leading to a crisp grapefruit finish
Great Newsome. Winestead, Hull
Jem’s Stout (4.3%) Deep dark stout with hints of liquorice. Named in honour of the Brewery dog
Green Jack. Lowestoft, Suffolk
Ole Cock (4.4%) Rich Chestnut-brown Winter Warmer with a nutty finish
Baltic Trader (10.5%) Extra Strong (no kidding!) Imperial Stout with smooth rich roasted coffee and vanilla flavours
Hart. Preston, Lancashire
Ice Maiden (4.0%) Light fruity session beer with Maris Otter malts
Highland. Swannay, Orkney
Porter (9.0%) Aromas of roasted grain and dark fruits lead onto a palate of coffee and chocolate, with a hint of smoke. Nutty, Belgian chocolate finish
Island Hopper (3.9%) Golden ale; sweet, resiny hop predominates
Dark Munro (4.0%) Soft, velvety chocolate and coffee, balanced hop and fruit
Orkney IPA (4.8%) Modern IPA. Styrian Goldings hops allow lemon and grapefruit initially, developing into a Goldings-led spicy pepperiness
Holdens. Dudley, W. Midlands
Flo Jangles (4.2%) Sweet-natured, elegant and lady-like ale, as illustrated on the pumpclip
J.W. Lees. Manchester
Chocoholic (3.6%) A rich dark beer made with chocolate and Goldings hops, with crystal and chocolate malts
Kelburn. Barrhead, Renfrewshire
Dark Moor (4.5%). Winter warmer with hints of blackcurrant
Little Valley. Hebden Bridge, W. Yorkshire
Mellow Yellow (3.6%) Delicate berry fruit aroma, with light malty body and smooth finish
Mauldons. Sudbury, Suffolk
Mid-winter Gold (4.5%) Amber-coloured with a great balance of malt and hops
Milton. Milton, Cambridgeshire
Neptune (3.8%). Delicious hop aromas introduce this well-balanced, nutty copper-coloured ale
Nethergate. Cavendish, Suffolk
IPA (3.5%) Session ale with Fuggles hops and a dry, dry aftertaste
Northumberland. Bedlington, Northumberland
Winter Gold (4.5%) Sweet golden ale
Pictish. Rochdale, Lancashire
Northern Dawn (4.3%) Full-bodied amber ale with caramel notes
Phoenix. Heywood, Manchester
Snowbound (4.3%) Better not be; we’re looking forward to this one
Potbelly. Kettering, Northamptonshire
Best (3.8%) Chestnut bitter brewed with four different malts and Goldings hops
Purple Moose. Porthmadog, Gwynedd
Dark Side of the Moose (4.6%) Dark, fruity ale with plenty of character
Roosters. Knaresborough, N. Yorkshire
Farmhouse Ale (3.7%) Malty, toffee-ish and a long nutty finish. Northdown hops lend a good bitterness
Salopian. Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Black Ops Imperial Stout (7.5%) Intense malted and roasted flavours; dark fruit and mocha tempered with crisp, tart bitterness. Sneaks up on you…
Saltaire. Shipley, W. Yorkshire
Triple Chocoholic (4.8%) Small hint in the title…
South Hams. Kingsbridge, Devon
Knickadroppa Glory (5.2%) Dark ruby. Bramling Cross hops give a delicate mix of fruit and malt
Stewarts. Loanhead, Midlothian
S.R.A. Stewarts’ Rugby Ale. (4.0%) Get in practice for celebrating Scotland’s success in the 6 Nations’ by raising a glass of this golden, malty, refreshing brew
No.3 Plus! (4.3%) Two brews of our regular house dark beer, one dry-hopped, the other enhanced with winter spices
Strathaven. Craigmill, Strathaven
Trumpeter (4.2%) Vibrant red ale with roasted malts and Scottish oats
Tryst. Larbert, Stirling
Raj IPA (5.5%) Back by popular demand, this is how they did things in the Old Days
T.H.T.#1 (3.9%) First in a series of trial brews inspired by American hops. “Willamette” gives a slight spicy, smoky edge to this session beer
Yates. Wigton, Cumbria
Winter Fever (4.0%) Refreshing winter ale that uses Progress as its’ main hop

Welcome to ME

Doesn't every one blog. Some times they seem to. So maybe its time to jump on the bandwagon that left serveral years ago.

But mostly its because sometimes twitters just not big enough to say what i want. Now i don't promise to be interesting. Hell i don't even promise to blog often. But i do promise to drink beer. But thats more a promise to me than you.

So who am i.

Well do you know.

I could do with finding out.

What i do know is a drink good  beer and probably more than i should. It all started back at college where i discover real ale. Now ive always liked variety in life so discovering the wide range of cask ales was a delight. For many years i sampled a good range of UK ales nearly always halves as that way i could try more of them. Rarely leaving a pub unless i had had a half of each. Then my downfall. I discovered and that led to a discovery of a whole new world of beer.

This has led to 2 distinct drinking styles. One my relaxed Drinking of old. Often nipping into a pub at lunch time for a nice half, or opening a bottle at home with the wife. The other my 'ticker' head. Now i dont like the word ticker as it implies that i just drink and tick. I like to think i consider what i like and dislike about each beer. But with this 'ticker' head on (usually at big tasting and festival) i can often try only 25ml of some of the stronger beer, sometimes having about 80 in a day. Now some may argue that this is no way to drink beer and guess what i probably agree. But what it does allow is me to try beer that ive a good chance of never seeing again. Forming a reasonable accurate opinion of the beer and then spend good money getting a bottle of the better one for more careful consideration.

Well there you have it. Thats me.