Monday, 15 December 2014

Going in Blind

The Bow Bar in Edinburgh had a Blind Dark Beer Festival where they had 26 different Stouts on across several weeks across their Cask and Keg line.  You tried a beer and gave a mark out of 10 for that beer and submitted it to be averaged with all other score.

The results are seen below.

But what interested me was how i scored blind (using Ratebeers system) against  my existing RateBeer Score.

So in Winning Order I tried

22 - Pilot Mochaccino:  4.3 against existing 4.2
17 - Cromarty Brewed Awakening 3.9 against existing 3.8
24 - Fyne Sublime 3.9 against existing 4.0
 5  - Loch Lomond Silke 3.6 against existing 4.0
 8 - Brewdog Brixton Porter 3.1 against existing 3.5
 4 - Orkney Dark Island 2.6 against existing 3.8
10 - William Bros Midnight Sun 4.1 against existing 4.2
 2 - Guinness 3.0 against existing 2.7

Im please to see that with the exception of Dark Island no score was Way off and that half of them were within 0.1 of original Score.
More interestingly the one score that was way off was a Keg version against a beer i would normally have in Cask.

I was also interested to see that despite my worry that my general feelings towards  Brewdog in this one case at least hasnt effected how i score their beer, and in fact i scored it lower blind that my existing score.

and who would have thought Guinness is better than i thought.

Golden (half) Pints 2014

In a break with the Traditional Golden Pints, Im going to run down my Top 15 beers of the Year and then look at what i says about me.

In Date Order.

Hawkshead Imperial Stout (Oak Aged) 
Well this one just sneaked into the list as it was the tail end of 2013(but after any 2103 writings so would be unfair to exclude) Hawkshead would certainly make my top 5 UK breweries mostly for the consistent quality and depth of there core range. But this one falls firmly into my Oh i love it category. Its Big (8.3%) Black, and on Cask. What more could a boy want.

DuClaw Divine Retribution No. 2
A bottle i sadly have no recollection of, and this is the main reason i started using ratebeer, to keep track of what i thought of beer (and again the main reason i do not rate to style as im interested in what I like best) but again from my notes i can see why i liked this, it was a fruity big stout.

Arizona Wilderness American Presidential Stout
Unlike the DeClaw this one has left a clear impression. It was the best of the Copenhagen beer Celebration, and again a Big Black beer. The biggest disappointment of the festival  was by the time i tried to get more they had nothing left.

Prairie Artisan Ales Bomb!
Another one from CBC and another Big Black stout, we very quickly see an unexpected pattern forming. This was one of a set with a special Chocolate edition available at the festival, and though the chocolate one was nice it was a clear winner for the Core beer, This is the First of the Beers i was lucky enough to revisit and it just seemed even better when i had it in bottle a few months later

Lervig Once You Go Black
Another CBC and the biggest surprise of the festival. While ive had several good beers from Lervig i just never expected to be as blown away as i was by this one, This was my 2nd choice of CBC and it was just a hairsbreadth away from the Presidential, and no surprises for spotting yet another big black beer.

Magic Rock Bearded Lady Pedro Ximénez BA
and Finally another CBC beer this time returning home to the UK with Magic rocks Bearded Lady. Now ive always been partial to a Bearded lady of two, and im a big fan of Pedro Ximenez so it was of no surprise that i liked this one as much as i did, it being my 3rd pick of CBC

Brøggeren Birkestout

And it turned out i couldn't escape  Copenhagen without picking up another top beer. Bringing the total for 1 weekend to a third of my top 15. This was a random find in one of CPHs many bars (Fermentoren) and a beer that was so good, that we returned to have another before heading for our plane and as such came within a hairs breadth of missing my plane. The only time i've nearly missed a flight. But it was well worth it.

Buxton Double Axe 
And at last a beer that isnt Black, however it is Big and its probably my favourite Double IPA ever. I had this first on Keg, and it was great but not stunning, but as well as making a great IPA it showed signs of actually aging into a great barley wine so when i went to buy some bottle i made sure to pick up a few extras for deliberate aging. But then a spanner in the works, The beer was even better in bottle that it had been on keg. With the side effect that i drunk most of them, leaving me less aging than intended.

Siren / De Molen Empress Stout 
Back to big and Black and my favourite of the Rainbow series, well not at first, again we have an improvment on revisit. At first i had on keg along side all the other rainbow series, but at IMBC it was available on Cask and for me and my personal preferences it was substantially lifted(it also didnt hurt that it was the best value beer of the year being only £3 a pint)

Siren / Evil Twin Bourbon Barrel Even More Jesus Coffee
Even More Jesus always scores well from me, but this was my favorite so far, i do like coffee in my beer, but am often not a fan of bourbon aging, but Ryan really seems to have a knack for these things and this beer just hit all the right amounts of everything for me.

De Molen Fruit IPA Mango Habanero 
And onto the another non Stout , this was an interesting one as it was a blend of two beers available at the De Molen Festival available both individually and as the blend and this one was a clear example of the sum being greater than its constituent part, both were decent enough. But the Spice was tempered by the sweetness of the mango in the blend making this the beer of the festival for me.

New Glarus Strawberry Rhubarb
Were heading towards closing down one of my tastings, whe from a bag this is pulled out. Instantly everyone sits up as the Raspberry tary and Cherry Red from New Glarus are cracking beers, this one didnt sound quite as interesting to me, but boy was a wrong. Its a real shame i had to share this with others, but as it wasnt my bottle in the first place im just glad i got to try it.

Buxton Berry Sake Bastard
Buxon have really been producing a lot of new beers this year and so many of them are shining, and this is one of the brightest, i wasnt a massive fan of the original version of this but the barrell aged version , the big fruit and a light funky back bone just tingled my tastebuds in all the right places

Magic Rock Dark Arts Barrel Aged With Raspberries 
and so we return to the darks all be it the not quite so big darks, with a Barrel and raspberry aged Dark arts, Ive always been partial to raspberries so im always interested to find a good beer thats been raspberried up and this one hit the mark, its got all the characteristics of the original, but with a massive raspberry hit. Whats not to like.

Highland Barrel Aged Orkney Porter (Isle of Arran)
and here we finish off with the last of my top 15, and it nicely bookends the list as when asked for my Favourite UK brewery the first two names out of my mouth are usually Highland and Hawkshead. So its fitting that i start and finish the list with these breweries. Again when asked, i will happily tell anyone who asked that i think the Best Scottish beer in regular production is the standard Orkney Porter, great in Bottle but Even better in cask. So it was with some delight (given how rarely we see the base beer in cask) that i was able to try this in cask which lived up to everything i could have hoped for.

So theres my Top 15 for the year,  looking as formats we see
7 Keg
2 Bottle
1 Cask
2 Bottle and Cask
2 Bottle and Keg
1 Cask and Keg

From the scoring of those in multiple formats,(and its no surprise) I clearly prefer Cask > Bottle >Keg

Looking at Locations we have
1 CBC and Home
1 CBC and De Molen
3 Home
2 Hanging Bat
2 Hanging Bat and Home
1 Hanging Bat and IMBC
1 Fermentorem
1 De Molen

From which i can only conclude that it takes the Hanging bat a whole year to replicate CBC (they really should try harder) and that even through hard work and dedication i still get much more good beer out and about than in bottle at home.

and Finally looking at Styles
11 are Stouts in one format or another
2 are Double Ipas
2 are Fruit beers

There really no surprise there anyone that knows me knows that i always have been a stout fan, and i dont see that changing any time soon,  but when the right beer comes along i can be tempted from the Dark Side.

and now onto the Standard list
1. Best UK Cask Beer – From Above that would have to be The Siren Empress but the Highland BA Porter was just behind.
2. Best UK Keg Beer – again taken from above Buxton Berry Saki B*astard.
3. Best UK Bottled beer – in whats fast becoming a repeat of the above, the Buxton Double Axe.
- Best UK Canned Beer – a tricky one aa none jump to mind but it would almost certainly be something by Beaver Town
4. Best Overseas Draught – Arizona Wilderness Presidential Stout
5. Best Overseas Bottled beer – New Glarus Strawberry Rhubarb
- or Canned Beer – Bud Chelada Picante
6. Best collaboration brew – again have to the Empress but outside of that the Even More Jesus Coffee making it a Collab Double for Siren
7. Best Overall Beer – Take your pick from the Above. Its far to close to call, but the Cask Lover in me Screams the Empress again.
8. Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label – Interestingly Most of my favourite beers have been from the Bat, or Festivals where there is very little Branding.
9. Best UK Brewery – See above where I say Hawkshead, Highland but lets add Siren  and MagicRock to the Mix.
10. Best Overseas Brewery – Im going to stick with De Molen, i like there beers, there festival and Meno so its a triple win for them
11. Best New Brewery Opening 2014 – 
12. Pub/Bar of the Year – If i dont say the Bat i may be Barred, so The Hanging Bat
13. Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2014 – Im going to go all Mystic Meg on you and say SpitFire
14. Best beer and food pairing –  Nothing beats those deep fried Pickles and any beer in Small Bar Bristol
15. Beer Festival of the Year – Im going to go against my beer Grain here and say Borefts at De Molen, a festival is about way more than just its beer, and De Molen seem to get everything right.
16. Supermarket of the Year – Waitrose as it’s the only one I buy beer from. ( I cut an pasted the Hanging bat one and edited it but im leaving this alone)
17. Independent Retailer of the Year – I’ve bought more beer from Beer Hive than anyone else this year.(and this one)
18. Online Retailer of the Year – Eeberia, is the only one ive used and twice Buxton had enough beers i wanted to justify an order.
19. Best Beer Book or Magazine – Dont read any
20. Best Beer Blog or Website – Given i only regularly read TheBeerCast so its well placed for 2nd place
21. Best Beer App – Twitter
22. Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer – @whatjoewrote he probably makes me smile in the most simon like manner.
23. Best Brewery Website/Social media – Siren, no one quite insults me the way Ryan does. (though many seem to try)