Friday, 23 December 2011

Scotland in Bloom : Breweries

WOW what a year.

Ive been big into beer since 2007, and the scene in the Edinburgh and Scotland has fair changed since then, but its really been this year that the market has bloomed.

In the third part of this Year in Review i look at Breweries.

Well where to start, the Breweries in Scotland just seem to be going from Strength to Strength.

First off many breweries came out with New and exciting beers,  the likes of Fyne ales Cherry stout, Sublime stout and West Highland IPA, Knopps with his best beer yet, the 3 Threads (ive still to try the stout) and Stewarts with the Wonderfully chilli version of the Cauld Reekie. Then theres been the Ocassional Sighting from Luckie, the brown stout being particularly good. There have been several new breweries many of whom still need to appear in Edinburgh so while its good to see them springing up, ive no idea how good they are yet.

But there are Two breweries that have stood out this year, first off is Black Isle, the excitement there started when they announced that they were enticing one of the Brewers from the well respected Marble Brewery. This alone was enough to whet my appetite. Now dont get me wrong Black Isle beers have never been bad, in fact the very limited Black Isle Export stout was always one of my Top Scottish beers, but Marble rightly have a reputation for excellence and the arrival of one of there top brewers could only be a GREAT thing. It didnt take Colin long to get going, during the Stockbridge Tap festival he threw some Raspberries into the Wheat beer to produce a wonderfully sweet summer beer. But it was the Production of new beers that brought the most excitement, from the almost perfect Black stout through  the Chilli porter, Coffee porter and Pacific Red. And of course when talking Black Isle we cant miss out that fact that there brought up Master Chef Winner Tim Anderson to brew his Red Hop Chilli bock, Now while red hot was pushing it, it was a great Collaboration beer and we can only hope they try to bring him back again.

The other stand out brewer is of course Tempest, there cant be many drinkers in Scotland who havent heard and seeked out Tempest beer.  While they were around in 2010 they were very hard to find and it was 2011 they really kicked of. The first to wow me of course was their Elemental Porter. The Chipotle Spiced Extra Porter was better still but has only appeared once to my knowledge. The Single Hop Citra is one of the best single hop beers i have ever had. The biggest fuss seemed to be around the kegged Brave New World, but while a good beer its not really my thing. But then good bless them they started to release some limited bottles. At last Tempest at home. I could really do with some more Caligula. The bottles have cleverly gone down the route of The Kernel with a standard Design with the name stamped on the Label.
This is great as it allows them to produce new beers with out massive label design cost and i can only hope we see many new beers from them in the new year.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Scotland in Bloom : Pubs

WOW what a year.

Ive been big into beer since 2007, and the scene in the Edinburgh and Scotland has fair changed since then, but its really been this year that the market has bloomed.

In the second part of this Year in Review i look at Pubs

Well we cant start the review with out mention the much mentioned Brewdog. This year was the Year that the dog opened both the Edinburgh and Glasgow Bars. Ok they dont have Cask beer, and i still think its down right weird to cripple yourself in that way, but saying that its still AWSOME. Its great for them as they have a great outlet for there core beers, but where it really shines for me, is the chance to try there premium beers on draught, there guest beer in both tap and bottle. In many way the BD bar offers beers that are just not available else where. What really highlights just how important this bar is, is the fact that just a few years ago i had to Trade with people in the US to get many of the beers that i can now get on my door step.

But its not all about Brewdog, the changes have gone well beyond that. The range of beers appearing in my Regulars the Bow Bar and Cloisters and their sister pub the Stockbridge tap is just amazing. All three of these bars have held Tap take over nights in conjunction with  great Scottish breweries. They are holding festivals regularly where there selling higher ABV beers that they would have struggled to sell a few years back. There is nothing finer than walking into a pub and finding Highland Orkney Porter on the Bar. They are also getting in more interesting bottles with Cloisters recently featuring beer from Old Chimney one of my favourite English breweries.

Then there the new pubs opening. The Red Squirrel has been a great addition to Edinburgh and the same company having just opened a bar in Glasgow last night. The launch beers for bruadarbar would make any beergeek salivate.

Finally a Pub that never really impressed me the Brauhouse in Edinburgh has come on in leaps and bounds. While it has always had a huge number of beers, i have always previously found the selection quite week, but more and more they seem to be venturing further afield and pulling in a much better class of beer.

All told Pubs seem to be able to carry a wider range of beers, sell higher abv beers and charge more for their beer. (The last one is a positive thing as great beers often cost more to make and its only to be expected that they should be able to charge more for these products).

I dont get to pubs outside Edinburgh much but the future looks Rosy for GOOD pubs in Edinburgh.

The Year Scotland Bloomed : Off-Licences

WOW what a year.

Ive been big into beer since 2007, and the scene in the Edinburgh and Scotland has fair changed since then, but its really been this year that the market has bloomed.

In the First part of this Year in Review i look at Off-Licences

In 2007 the the Fabulous Cornelius was the only beer shop that i found worth a regular trip across town to pick up beer. Yes there were other such as Great Grog, Royal Mile Whiskeys, Vinowines etc  that had a few beers of particular interest now and then, but nothing like the range Cornelius had.

But even then i dont think Cornelius could sell the range he now sells. The thing that opened my eyes to this most this year was the introduction of Nogne O beers to the Edinburgh Market, had these beers been available in 2007 im sure Cornelius would have had some of them, but in not sure how well they would have sold. But this year not only did Cornelius sell the full range but so did Great Grog and Appellation wine.

Cornelius is as great as ever but is able to carry an even better range, Great Grog has come on Amazingly (though ive not made it across there i have a handy Squirrel who pick me up beers regularly) Appellation came to my attention this year, and is my main shop as its on my way home from work and i manage to pick up a new beer nearly every visit, and just in the last few months Royal Mile Whiskeys opens a cracking new shop up Tollcross way, and an ex-Cornelius  employee has just opened the Beerhive down Cannonmills way while vinowines has just opened a new store in Stockbridge.

More surprising still, one of the oddest beer shop finds ive ever had was Ninas Mini Market just a few doors down from cloisters. This is a bog standard corner store (all be its not on a corner) but recently they have been selling the likes of The Kernel and De Molen beers as well has having 1 of the 2 cases of the Rotgut porter from Tempest. (Though i have just discovered that currently have licence issues and have had to take all the beers down :-(  lets hope not for long)

All told the Off-Licence range in Edinburgh has improved logarithmically this year.

Moving out of Edinburgh i need to mention Luvians in St Andrews (with a shop in Cuper), from their twitter feed its clear they carry an amazing range of beers, including some beers that havent made it into Edinburgh as far as i know, but even before i was into twitter i had heard rumours of this place so drove all the way there one day just for a beer shop and it was well worth it. Not only did i manage to pick up 2bottle of "How to Disappear Completely" but the selection was pretty impressive and i came away with a fair few new ones

Im know there are other off-licences in Edinburgh and i have great faith that they have improved just as much, but i cant get into them all :-)

Sunday, 11 December 2011

My Golden/Bitter Half Pints 2011

Well looking at my Golden Half pints blog it was clear that I love Big Dark Beers. Ok this in nothing new to me or people who know me, But i dont just love these beers, so i thought i would cover the same ground with other styles, working with an arbitrary maximum abv of 5.5. Not everything has a runner up as i didnt have enough of that catagory for there to be anything else standing out. In fact i know ive had several good bottles and Cask(all of which id happily drink again) at under 5.5% but i have found this much more difficult to write than the original piece, on the whole these beers just while Damn good just dont WOW me, in the same way.

Best UK draught (Cask or Keg) beer(stout):
Winner:  Northern Deep Dark Secret  (Deeside Talorcan)
Runner Up: joint   Bushys Oyster Stout (Cairngorm Black Gold (Cask))

Best UK draught (Cask or Keg) beer(other):
Winner:  Camden Town Inner City Green  (BrewDog Edge)
Runner Up: joint Stewart Number 3 Spice (Namyslow Plum)

Best UK bottle or canned beer (stout)
Winner: Exeter Darkness 
(Old Chimneys Black Rat Stout)

Best UK bottle or canned beer (other)
Winner: Brodies Wimbledon (Brodies Wimbledon)

Best Overseas bottle or canned beer
Winner: nothing  (New Glarus Raspberry Tart

Best Overseas Draught beer
Winner:Nøgne Ø Aku Aku Lemongrass Ale
(Pilsner Urquell Kvasnicový from brewery Cellar only)

Best Overall beer
Winner:  Brodies Wimbledon (Deeside Talorcan)

Friday, 9 December 2011

My Golden Half Pints 2011

For each catagory im going to give this years answer and my Overall choice in brackets.

Best UK draught (Cask or Keg) beer:
Winner:  BrewDog Nøgne Ø Mikkeller Black Tokyo* Horizon (Highland Orkney Porter)
Runner Up: joint Black Isle Black Stout     Stewart Chilli Reekie  (Black Isle Organic Export Oatmeal Stout )

Best UK bottle or canned beer
Winner: Magic Rock Bearded Lady  (Old Chimneys Good King Henry Special Reserve)
Runner Up: Green Jack Baltic Trader (Old Chimneys Good King Henry )
Best Overseas bottle or canned beer
Winner: Nøgne Ø Dark Horizon Third Edition (Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout )
Runner Up:  Samuel Adams Utopias (Struise Pannepot)

Best Overseas Draught beer
Struise Black Damnation V - Double Black  (Mikkeller X Imperial Stout Calvados Barrel Aged)
Runner Up:  
De Molen Hot & Spicy
(De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis 666)

Best Overall beer
Winner:   Struise Black Damnation V - Double Black   (Old Chimneys Good King Henry Special Reserve)
Runner Up: BrewDog Nøgne Ø Mikkeller Black Tokyo* Horizon (Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout )

Best Pump Clip or label
Winner: Magic Rock for the full set
Runner Up: The Kernel

Best UK brewery
Winner: The Kernel
Runner Up: Steel City

Best Overseas Brewery
Winner: De Molen
Runner Up: Cigar City
But i want to Mention Nogno O for not only for great beer but their amazing Sake. The only European Sake producer.

Pub/Bar of the Year
Winner: Craft Beer Co.
Runner Up: Hawkshead Brewery tap

Beer Festival of the Year
Winner: De Molen
Runner Up: GBBF-BSF

Supermarket of the Year
Winner :Waitrose
Runner Up: Booths

Online retialer of the year
Winner:  My Brewery Tap
Runner Up: The Bottle Shop

Best beer twitterer
Winner: Simon Johnson
Runner Up: Twattdog (wheres he gone)

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year: Masterchef Tims dinner at the Caley Sample Rooms.

In 2012 I'd most like to Visit De Molen festival AGAIN

Oddly once again i see a theme. Theyre all Black and theyre all big beers, who would have guessed that :-)