Tuesday, 6 September 2011

York 'LocAle' Competition

The York Beer and Cider Festival is soon approaching and for the second time York CAMRA have asked me to judge in the 'LocAle' beer competition. If the competition is anything like it was last year it should be a lot of fun.

In order for a beer to be submitted to the competition it has to come from a Brewery with in 25 miles of the festival site - its as simple as that. The festival will also feature a 'LocAle' bar showcasing 50+ beers from 19 different local breweries. This a great way to promote local beer. With so many breweries producing quality beer in the UK at the moment it is hard to keep up with whats available and I have found from experience that a lot of breweries, particularly the smaller breweries, can go unnoticed. The 'LocAle' competition and bar is a good way of letting the public know what beer is being produced outside their own front door and hopefully this will encourage them to buy local beer in the future. Great idea.

Although judging last year was fun I don't think my knowledge on beer was up to scratch. In the last year I have learned considerably more about beer which should make this year a lot more interesting.

If anyone is interested in going to the York Beer Festival all the information can be found here http://www.yorkbeerfestival.org.uk/2011/index

More posts about the 'LocAle' competition and the York Beer Festival to follow.

Good luck to any breweries submitting a beer!


Thursday, 28 July 2011

To Homebrew or not to Homebrew?

Recently I attempted to make myself a hombrew. I have wanted to do this for a while and it seemed like fun, and in fact it was, but the end result was not what I  had aimed for. I attempted to make a strong, single hopped, citra IPA. The beer that came out the other side was alright, definitely drinkable, but not what I wanted. This presented me with a challenge!

As a student homebrew has a lot of advantages. Firstly it is cheap, very cheap. Once you have all of the equipment you can make about 70 bottles for around £25. I can use the homebrew for general drinking with friends and it wont break the bank. This frees a lot of money up for me to buy more expensive, interesting beer that I would not usually be able to afford on my student budget. Win! But there is a drawback. If I am going to be drinking the homebrew on a regular basis it needs to be good. I need to want to drink it, henceforth my new challenge.

Through trial and error, advise from others and possibly good luck, I am going to try and make a quality homebrew. If anyone has any helpful advise I would much apreciate it!

Updates will be posted! Cheers!

Big Break

In the last few months student life caught up with me so I have not had the time to do any posts, but now I am a little more freed up and the blog can continue! Tasting notes on interesting beers and general comments will be coming up in the next few weeks!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Grove...a beer geek’s heaven?

Tucked away in a corner of Huddersfield lies The Grove Inn. It was only recently that I first experienced The Grove - I had heard good things and had high expectations, but even these were exceeded. Inside the pub is quite big, very easy to find a seat. The walls are decorated with some very interesting art that you would not find in a standard pub. The list of craft beer available was through the roof and everything was very reasonably priced. The first visit was an event for the York Real Ale Society that I chair, so about a dozen of us went. Before too long our table was a sea of craft beer. Port Brewing Older Viscosity, Goose Island 2010 Bourbon County Vanilla Stout and Moylans’s Hopsickle to name just a few. So, obviously, I had to visit again. 

Fast forward to the 25th of May and myself and a few friends, including fellow blogger Alex Hurst (www.emptypint.co.uk), are on our way to The Grove again. This time it was for the release of BrewDog’s AB:06, a triple dry hopped imperial black IPA. I was very excited. We arrived in time to have a drink before the event started. The first beer I went for was a half of BrewDog’s Bramling X. This single hopped IPA poured orange amber and had plenty of berry and plum aromas on the nose. I was met with initial citrus flavours followed by some earthy woody tones and hints of caramel malt and then a strong bitter finish. Great beer to start the evening. 

I finished the drink just in time for the start of the event. First we were given some information on the drink we were about to receive (for free, may I add). The AB:06 is sixth beer from BrewDog’s Abstrakt range. The Abstrakt beers are the beers that the people at BrewDog like to experiment and take a risk with, sometimes using ingredients that are not often found in beer, such as chilli and coconut. The AB:06 ‘boasts more bitterness and more hops then any BrewDog creation to date’- seems right up my street, I was looking forward to this! It was bottled the previous Thursday, so the beer was only 6 days old. They say you should drink hoppy beers at their most fresh. Perfect! The beer arrived. It was a dark, almost inky black. On the nose I got some of the typical floral aromas you find in well dry hopped beers, along with some hints of orange; however it was not as strong as expected. Initially I was met with some very intense citrus bitterness followed by a well rounded finish with touches of treacle malt, a very good beer.

The next beer we were given was a sample of Bitch Please. This is a barleywine style beer made by BrewDog in collaboration with Three Floyds Brewery from the States. This 11.5% beer was brewed in August 2010. It is made with three varieties of New Zealand hops, which you would not expect to find in a typical barleywine beer, as well as seven different types of malt including one whisky malt and one peated malt. Highland toffee and shortbread were also added into the mix. Apparently the people and BrewDog did not want to add the toffee and shortbread to the beer but the brewers from Three Floyds insisted the beer had a ‘strong Scottish influence’. The beer was then aged in whisky casks – most of it in Jura, but a small batch in Laphroaig casks. All in all this is quite an experimental beer. To be honest I think this beer would be more fitting in the Abstrakt range. In my opinion it is a lot more experimental then the AB:06. The beer was mahogany in colour with a light tan coloured head. On the nose the whisky is overwhelming with some obvious peat smokiness. There was also a little bit of a sweet smell coming through at the end, a sort of a mix between fudge and biscuit. The first tastes I got from this beer were some cutting hops but these flavours were quickly overwhelmed by strong malt and big peat flavours. In the aftertaste I got a lot of smoke and ash. This beer made me consider barleywine as a style of beer. This style of beer does not seem to be consistent. If you have an IPA, imperial stout or a Belgian quad you know more or less what to expect however with barleywine beers they all seem to be very different from each other. For example, Sierra Nevada’s Big Foot is packed full of very strong hop flavours, completely different from Bitch Please. And then there’s Anchors Old Foghorn which again is completely different from the other two. Does anyone know what defines a barleywine style beer? 


After this we then dived into The Groves huge craft beer menu. Beers such as Tactical Nuclear Penguin, Thornbridge Bracia, Thornbridge St. Petersburg 2006 Speyside Whisky Reserve where sampled with a Mikkeller barrel aged 1000 IBU for the train home. As this post is quite big as it is I will post these tasting notes at a future date. All in all this was a great night and I don’t think it will be too long till I return to The Grove again. Cheers!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Alcohol free beer?

Recently it was my dad's 50th birthday and I wanted to get him something good . Usually I manage well buying gifts for people on big birthdays, a  few bottles of some very special beer or a good bottle of whisky. Easy. Unfortunately, this time, I could not do this. My dad has been teetotal for over five years now. So, what do I get? A watch he will never wear? A book he will never read? No, I did the sensible thing and stuck with beer, but alcohol free this time! I had seen him drinking the Becks alcohol free beer on a few occasions, and if this version mimicked its alcoholic brother it would not do. I found a site specialising in alcohol free beer and ordered a mixed case of 24 bottles. The case included some interesting beers including alcohol free versions of Bitburger, Jever and even a stout. I tasted a few and, well, they were alright - definitely better then the Becks . My dad was very happy with them.

All this made me think about alcohol as a flavor in beer and I realsised it was one that I liked a lot. Looking at my favorite beers (at the moment) it's rare that they are lower then 9%. Sierra Nevada Big foot, Rochfort 10 and BrewDog's Tokyo* are all good examples. This thought prompted me to buy an low alcohol craft beer to test this theory and it just so happened that my local craft beer shop had some BrewDog Nanny State, a 0.5% imperial mild. Upon pouring the beer I was met with a great floral aroma of intense hops, so far so good, this upped my expectations. The initial flavors were good with an unexpected hoppiness however the after taste was disappointing. It was watery and lacked that 'phumph' you get from other craft beers and I guess this is where the alcohol would normally step in. Ah well. I guess I wont becoming teetotal any time soon.  

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Have you tried...Goose Island Pepe Nero?

Goose Island describe this beer as a 'Belgian style farmhouse ale brewed with peppercorns'. From the vintage series, at 6% it isn't as strong as other Belgian styled beers, but that didn't matter. On pouring it gave less of a head than expected. A very dark mahogony in colour, it gave typical Belgian aromas with a slight chestnut twist. Before tasting this beer I was little apprehensive as I was worried that they may of overdone it with the peppercorns. This was not the case. Quite rich with an initial roasted sweetness, it's not till the after taste that the peppercorns become apparent. The peppercorns give a subtle sharpness that I think works with this beer. With it not being too expensive (around £3 a bottle) and with me being on a student budget, I would definitely buy it again! If anyone else has tried it comment and tell me what you think.

Sunday, 17 April 2011


About a year and a half ago was the start of a very big change in my life. Aged 18, I had left my home in Liverpool to start university at York. This presented me with an opportunity to make new friends, join some interesting university societies and try some new things. Walking through freshers’ fair (for those who don’t know, this is an event that is held at the start of each university year where students can sign up to societies exploring different interests) it was the York University Real Ale Society that caught my eye the most. Having only sampled a few pints of some standard ales, such as Black Sheep Best Bitter, I didn’t know what to expect but I thought I would give it a shot. A year later I found myself Chair of the society with my knowledge of real ale increased.  After six months as Chair, getting very caught up in the craft beer revolution and falling more and more for well-made, quality beer every day, I thought I would try my hand at a beer blog.

So, my name is Andrew Lynes. I am 20, currently the Chair of York University Real Ale Society and I love craft beer! I hope anyone reading this enjoys the blog. Feel free to comment on anything I say. It would be good to get some interesting discussions on the go!