Newbie Foodie

As I begin uploading another picture of my evening dinner I jokingly said to my partner Josh that I should change my Instagram Bio to something like ‘Beer Blogger and Foodie’ and as I scanned through my posting history I realised that this might not be a bad idea. During this lockdown, as we’ve been told to ‘Stay at Home’, I have found that I have been getting more involved in cooking our meals, sharing it on my social media, and often pairing it with a beer. I’ve noticed that I am beginning to enjoy learning how to prepare more food but this hasn’t always been the case.

Growing up I was never particularly interested in food. I used to be an incredibly fussy eater and really only ate foods that felt ‘safe’ to me. I very rarely ate a vegetable and I stayed away from spicy foods. I was also not very interested in cooking, and hated doing Food Tech at school as I was quite a nervous cook. I struggled with trying new foods, a habit that came back as I began my beer journey and I found it hard to go out of my comfort zone (I wrote about this in an earlier post you can read here). As I was going through my teenage years certain experiences encouraged me to eat more foods but I didn’t find pleasure in what I was eating. I hit a turning point when I met my partner Josh who is a very keen foodie and an amazing home cook. With his help and patience I started learning how to cook and gained some confidence in the kitchen. He also helped open my eyes to good food and I started to enjoy it.

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I’ve always been more of a fan of baking rather than cooking and my earliest memories in the kitchen have been spending time with my mum baking cakes and sweet treats. I enjoy the precision of baking, the direct instructions, something my partner Josh doesn’t understand. As a great home cook he is used to his own creative flair and adapting recipes with a pinch of this and a splash of that, things that are unnatural to me with baking. Perhaps thats what makes us such a great team in the kitchen. During the lockdown its become a sort of tradition that we make homemade pizzas at the weekends so I am very much in charge of the pizza dough bases whilst I leave Josh to sort out the sauce and toppings.

White Sourdough Starter

We hit a bit of a snag with our weekly pizza nights as national food shortages have meant that my local supermarkets have run out of yeast and theres been no luck at any of the smaller convenience shops. I then began looking into the idea of sourdough starters and after coming across a step-by-step guide in the Good Food Magazine this month I decided to give it a go. For my first try I practiced on using some wholemeal flour that we found in the back of the cupboard, so as not to use up all the strong white bread flour, something else that had become a rare commodity around here. By day three and realising the wholemeal flour was 10 years old I was worried it wouldn’t work so decided to start again, this time with the white bread flour seeing as our last trip to the shop had proved successful. This starter looked much more active from day two and I found myself watching it every day, checking to see how much it had grown. As soon as I felt it was ready I decided to test the starter out before ‘hibernating’ it in the fridge alongside the spare wholemeal starter. Next was a two day process of feeding and folding before finally being able to bake my first ever sourdough loaf. I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome especially as it was such a labour of love making it. Not bad considering it was a project that I was sure wouldn’t work and it has certainly boosted my confidence in baking.

First Sourdough loaf

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During this lockdown period I’ve noticed I have been thinking more about what beers would work well with the food we have been cooking, using some knowledge I’ve picked up from my beer sommelier training courses. I’ve found that as I have been moving along my beer journey my confidence with trying new foods and beers has grown since I started going to more beer festivals. With the range of food now being served at beer festivals I am now just as excited to look which food vendors will be there as well as looking over the list of breweries and beers being poured. I am also enjoying the range of food you can now find in brewery tap rooms. The days of the dodgy burger vans or hotdog stands have been replaced with a wave of new and exciting street food. When I go to a tap room I’m always interested to see which street food stall is there as its a great opportunity to try something new.

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In November, last year, I was sitting in the Unity tap room whilst my partner Josh and his parents were getting ready to head off the Southampton FC game. As they are season ticket holders I wasn’t going with them but instead decided I would continue to have a few drinks at Unity and then move on somewhere in the city centre, where I could meet them after. “Are you going to have some lunch? You could always eat here?” Josh said to me as he was leaving, in the knowledge that he will be having a Piglet’s Pantry pie at the football ground. As I looked at the menu on the table I saw that Roots Vegan Street Food were serving up food in the tap room that day. As an avid carnivore I’ve struggled generally with all vegetarian or vegan menus but after having visited Bundobus in Manchester and Leeds in the last few years, I’ve become more open to veggie meals so I thought I would give this a try. The vegan Mac & Cheese served with Nachos caught my eye, which I know isn’t adventurously vegan but I should mention at this stage that I never used to be a big cheese lover either, and as more people sat around me with their food orders I was feeling hungry. The Mac & Cheese was so creamy, I wouldn’t have been able to tell that the cheese was vegan, and was sprinkled with spring onions for freshness on top. I enjoyed it so much that I considered ordering another portion but it was time for me to head back into the city centre.

Roots Vegan Street Food Mac n’ Cheese with Nachos

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As I have been adding more food posts to my Instagram page I found that to my surprise last month that my version of a Hot Shot Parmo had been entered into Parm Star’s #ratemyparmo competition, inspired by peoples efforts to try to recreate their signature Parmo at home.

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Parm Star’s Parmo at Grub

I had first tried Parm Stars OG Parmo at Grub after I’d overindulged in the previous nights session at Indy man Beer Con in 2017. When we arrived at Grub the weather was a bit overcast and was threatening to rain so I found us some seats under an awning whilst Josh went to the bar. That morning I was feeling particularly hungover and turned a shade of green once Josh had placed a beer in front of me. I was struggling, that was until I went to collect our Parmo order. As I tucked in I felt my nausea dissipate and a bit more colour came back to my cheeks. The breaded chicken of the Parmo was so crispy underneath the unctuous cheesy blanket that covered it. The fries dipped in the creamy garlic mayo was like heaven to me and the coleslaw helped cut through the richness. This was healing food and I was ready for another session at Indy Man. Since then Parmos have been my go to for serious comfort food, something I really craved one night this year in January.

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“What would you like for dinner today?” Josh asks me on a cold and miserable day in January. I already knew the answer as there was only one thing I was really craving that day, a chicken Parmo. Unfortunately living in the South West means we don’t exactly have easy access to the real thing so Josh and I had no choice but to recreate one in our own style. This was my first Hot Shot Parmo, with an extra dash of The Rib Man Holy Fuck Sauce and paired with Donzoko’s Big Foam, but little did I know it would be entered into a competition.

Homemade Hot Shot Parmo

Parm Star’s #ratemyparmo turned out to be a big hit and every time I opened up Instagram my feed was flooded with other peoples homemade Parmos, and it made me so hungry that I had to make another Parmo that week! It was really great to be acknowledged by Parm Star themselves for our homemade effort and despite being beaten in the quarter finals I felt really proud as I didn’t think I would ever get recognition for food I’ve cooked.

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“Do you want to get a picture of this before I serve it? Josh asks me as he patiently waits for me to find the right camera angle and take several snaps of our food on the stove. My stomach is rumbling and I am feeling a great sense of pride that I helped make that meal, whether its recreating a chicken Parmo or our Friday Ploughman’s lunch served with my home made Sourdough bread. Although I have found lockdown difficult and feeling a bit redundant by being stuck at home, I’ve really enjoyed having more time to gain some confidence in the kitchen as well as spending it with Josh who is definitely a patient teacher!

On reflection of these experiences I can probably officially change my Instagram Bio but I think I’ll just go with ‘Beer Blogger and Newbie Foodie’ … for now anyway!

Instagram: sobeer_blogger

SoBeer Guide to Southampton

For many years I have frequently visited the city of Southampton, dragged by my other half on match day to watch his beloved team play football. He has been a Saints fan ever since he was little and when we first became a couple I thought I should take an interest in one of his hobbies … so I chose to share beer drinking with him! The opening of Caskaway on Oxford Street meant we had a new place for our pre-match beers and it was from here that I decided I wanted to find out more about the beer scene in Southampton.

I first did some research online and found a blog post by Tom Hallett called The Ultimate Guide to Southampton’s Craft Beer Bars and Real Ale Pubs which gave a very comprehensive list of beer destinations in and around the city. This blog post gave me a great start in discovering some places and areas of Southampton I would never have thought to have visited before, particularly those outside of the city centre. I began to create a picture of Southampton’s beer scene and decided to share some of my favourite bars and pubs in my own guide.

This blog post has been roughly two years in the making and within that time new places have opened and there have been some that have closed. The unfortunate side effect of drinking a lot of beer has also caused a delay in writing up this guide so if you follow this route I advise you do it over a couple of days to make the most of each stop. On one occasion when I had decided to do a beer crawl around Southampton I planned to start at Unity’s tap room in it’s old location just outside the city centre in Portswood. I thought I would have one or two beers here and then move one to see what else Portswood had to offer before heading back into the centre. From what I remember of that trip is that I rather enjoyed Unity’s Amalgamation Houblon Tripel and then the rest of the day is a little hazy …

Two years on and after a few more visits here is my SoBeer Guide to Southampton which I am hoping will inspire you to pay the city a visit.

Dancing Man Brewery Brewpub

Down near Southampton’s Docks and nestled within parts of the original town walls is the Dancing Man Brewery. The brewpub is situated in a historic Wool House and you can see a lot of the building’s character when you go inside. The double doors open to reveal pockets of seating areas and a large spiral staircase taking you to the second mezzanine floor. The decor is very eclectic with a mixture of historic photos and quirky antiques which add to the charm of the place. As you walk around the staircase and through to the back of the pub the large bar becomes visible and you get the first glimpse of the brewery’s seven brewing vessels. The DMB brewpub sell their own beers, both cask and keg, but also have a few guest ales and one off brews. Dancing Man are also very proud that their beers are unfined and champion this with their choice of guest ales with beers from Moor, Siren as well as Tapstone. Back outside at the front of the pub are some picnic style benches where I have spent a few sunny afternoons watching the ferries arrive into port with a chilled beer in my hand.

Caskaway Tasting Rooms

The Caskaway Tasting Rooms, established in 2016, was where I first started looking into the local beer scene in Southampton and has also been the place for pre-match drinks when we’ve been down to watch Saints play. The micro pub offers a wide range of keg and gravity pour cask beers, cider, as well as spirits which are served to you at your table as there is no formal bar. The beer list available usually showcases a variety of local breweries as well as some sought after new releases. Inside, Caskaway’s interior gives a nod to Southampton’s nautical heritage as the walls are decked with maps, compasses and model boats. When you look up ship sails drape from the ceiling filled with fairy lights which give you the feeling that your gazing into the stars.

Belgium & Blues

Belgium & Blues is made up of two parts. On the ground level is a Gin Bar and Brasserie serving classic Belgian food as well as smoked meats from Bark & Brisket. Downstairs is the Cellar Bar which has ambient lighting that gives you the feeling that you are in a traditional Belgian bar and there is plenty of booth seating making it feel very cosy. Belgium & Blues pride themselves on having one of the widest ranges of bottled Belgian beers in the country, something I can vouch for as on a recent visit I was able to try a 1.5 year old aged bottle of Orval. On the bar there are 20 taps of both cask and keg beers pouring Belgian style beers as well as championing local breweries. Belgium & Blues is also a great venue for music events and there are regular sets from bands during the weekends.

Brewdog

The Brewdog in Southampton is tucked away a little near Upper Bannister Street where there doesn’t seem to be much footfall compared to other locations for the brand. On stepping inside I am faced with the familiar template of a Brewdog bar which has been coined from the idea of what a ‘craft beer’ micro pub should look like with their trademark exposed brickwork, distressed wood furniture and brushed metal finishes. On looking at the beer list located above the bar I see some familiar beers, including one of my favourite Brewdog beers Elvis Juice, as well as some great guest ales. The staff at Brewdog are always friendly and offer great customer service, particularly if you need assistance in choosing what beer to order. Here there is a good mix of customers from your regular beer drinkers to people starting out on their beer journey.

Unity Tap Room

Unity Brewery have recently expanded and relocated from their small unit in Portswood to their current location which is conveniently nearby the St Mary’s Football Stadium. From the outside the brewery and tap room is a standard white coloured industrial unit but when you step inside you are greeted with the soft pastel colour palette that has become synonymous with the Unity brand, which you can learn more about from the Matt Curtis’ great interview with founder Jimmy Hatherley in a podcast for the Pellicle here. Upon entering as you look straight ahead you see the brewery which takes centre stage within the space. To the right is the tap room area which is a wide space with plenty of seating, a football table and a games console for if your feeling competitive. The bar has certainly been upgraded during the move from it’s original four taps to it’s current line up of 12 taps pouring their own beers as well as guest ales and cider. To the side of the bar there is a large fridge filled with freshly canned Unity beers as well as a great selection from other breweries which can be drank in or taken away. Out the back is an enclosed yard where street food stands run pop ups every Saturday. As I mentioned before the tap room is fairly close to St Mary’s Stadium which means I have a great excuse to pop in on match day, enjoy a few beers and eat some amazing street food!

The Bookshop Alehouse

As you look at the bright orange frontage of The Bookshop Alehouse you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just that, a book shop but as you look closer you see that it is actually a very interesting micro pub. As you enter the alehouse you’ll notice that some of the the old book cases remain in homage to the building’s previous purpose and there is a comforting scent of old books in the air. Personally I really enjoy the smell of old books and I think it adds to the character of the alehouse. The bar is at the back of the pub serving both cask and keg across their eight taps of local beers from big names such as Unity and Vibrant Forest as well as others from around the UK. The decor inside The Bookshop Alehouse is very eclectic and I think it reflects some of our British eccentricity. There is a mixture of beer memorabilia as well as retro signage hanging on the walls and in the corner near the bar there is row of Chinese lucky fortune cats that look like they are doing a Mexican wave. Each time I have been here I have noticed how friendly the staff are as well as the regulars and the pub does give the impression that it is an important communal hub for the area.

The Butcher’s Hook

The walk from The Bookshop Alehouse to our next destination is one of my favourites, in particular the Cobden Bridge crossing between two of the city’s suburbs St Denys and Bitterne Park which reveals a stunning view over the River Itchen. As you leave the bridge and walk up towards the small monument you will begin to see Southampton’s Original Micro Pub come into view. Here is another great example of a repurposed building as The Butcher’s Hook is a fully converted Victorian butcher’s shop. Inside the walls are still covered with the original tiles in off white and green, typical of the era, while at the window there is a hand painted scene depicting cows and sheep in a field. It’s not until you look up that the real character of the building shines through as you see the original meat hooks and you can really imagine how it would have looked as a working butcher’s shop. There is no bar in The Butcher’s Hook so people generally place their orders at the stillage which pours up to four gravity pour cask beers and there are six keg lines just to the side. Being Southampton’s Original Micro Pub means that The Butcher’s Hook is usually busy but it does have a really great atmosphere once your inside and the communal style seating is aimed at encouraging people to talk to one another, hopefully on the great beer they are enjoying!

Overdraft

My last stop is just a short drive out of the city centre to Shirley, and trust me it is worth grabbing an Uber out to this one. Overdraft is situated on the main high street of Shirley and is the last in a row of retail units. Inside it has your typical ‘craft beer bar’ vibe with benches, bar stools made from old casks and exposed brickwork on the walls. Here there is a good sized bar serving gravity pour cask ales from the visible stillage as well as range of keg beers and cider. At the back of the micro pub there are some vinyl decks as Overdraft regularly hold DJ sets and events in the evenings. The food is also incredible as there is a mouthwatering menu of Mexican street food including soft shell tacos and sharing platters. On a recent trip here, feeling a little worse for wear, I stopped on my way back home with the intention to have one quick beer for the purpose of this blog. After reading the street food menu and having a couple beers I was persuaded into staying longer and it certainly made my hangover a little more bearable!

As I mentioned earlier this is not a definitive list and there are a number of other great places to discover so I hope to keep this list updated as I visit new venues. The South Coast doesn’t often get mentioned when people talk about beery destinations but the scene in Southampton is really vibrant and I really hope that it will continue to flourish so that we can get the South on the beer map!

My Year in Beer 2019

The Big Day is has been and gone, all the presents have been opened and the cheese has all been eaten. As we make our way through the last of the Christmas left overs and with the new year looming it is a time to reflect on the last 12 months. Last week I had my annual notification from Untappd to view my ‘Year in Beer 2019’ which is always interesting to look back on to remember some great beery highlights over the past year. After some reminiscing I scrolled down the page to find I could look back at 2018’s statistics as well so thought I would do a comparison. To my surprise the number of unique beers I’d checked in for this year was 272, a number that was down from 2018 when I’d registered 401. I then began to wonder why my check in count had changed and on reflection I think that there had been a shift in my drinking habits over the last year.

Whilst before I would be on the hunt for new and unusual flavoured beers to check in, I’ve found that this year I have really been enjoying consistent flavoured beer. Since the opening of a micro pub in my home town (The Hiding Place) I’ve spent chilled out afternoons and fun evenings with friends drinking pint after pint of great tasting beers. Whether it be well conditioned cask ale from our local brewery Stealth or a crisp, cold pint of Lost and Grounded Keller Pils on a hot summer’s day, I’ve found I keep going back to the bar to order a repeat of my last order.

A few months ago I read Mark Johnson’s blog post about his feelings on reaching the end of the ‘beer journey’ and how he “just wants to drink Jarl”. At the time I felt saddened by the thought of my own journey ending one day and I began to worry that I may have already peaked when reviewing my ‘Year in Beer’ stats for 2019. I managed to quash these fears as I realised that I still get excited about trying new styles as well as discovering beer culture in other countries. I’ve attended quite a few festivals this year which is a great place to taste new and unusual beers as well as tried a couple of the collaborative project cases. I’ve come to realise that I don’t have to keep drinking new beers all the time and that, I too, can be content with easy drinking and consistently great tasting beers.

It is with this reflection that I’ve recognised I have turned down a new path in my beer journey. The one where I can sit back, relax and enjoy drinking the same beer, pint after pint, as well as still feel the excitement and hype around new beer trends. Cheers to the next part of the adventure.

Hoppy New Year!

Vessel Beer Festival 2019

The city of Plymouth, on the south coast of Devon, has long been famous for it’s naval heritage. It was from here that the first pilgrims left England for the New World in America and it was also where the Spanish Armada were defeated in 1588. Unfortunately due to it’s naval importance Plymouth was targeted by the German Military in World War 2, destroying much of the city and its landmarks including parts of the Guild Hall. As the city was rebuilt the Guild Hall was renovated to what can be seen today with design influences from Medieval and Art Deco architecture. For the last two years the Guild Hall has played host to the Vessel Beer Festival organised by the same people behind Plymouth’s Vessel Beer Shop.

The Vessel Beer Shop, run by Sam and Katie Congdon, first opened it’s doors in December 2016 and is celebrating it’s 3rd Birthday today. The couple, originally from the South West, have travelled around the UK as well as further afield discovering more about beer styles from around the world. Their journeys brought them back to Plymouth where they opened Vessel Beer Shop to share their passion for beer as well as support local independent producers. The Vessel Beer Festival reflects these values with local breweries sharing a stage with some bigger names in beer. I really wanted to make sure I tried some of the local beers whilst at the festival so I made my way over to the Roam stand to try their Nomad pale ale. Roam brews it’s beers just down the road in Plymouth and first launched its beers in January 2018 with the support of Vessel, a great example of the friendly beer community in the South West. The Nomad pale ale was light and hazy in appearance and packed with juicy citrus flavours. There was also a hint of pine making this a very easy drinking beer. I think Roam are definitely a brewery to watch out for and hopefully I will get to see their beers again soon!

I couldn’t go to Vessel Beer Festival and not head over to Siren to see which of their Caribbean Chocolate Cake beers were pouring at the the session. With the CCC launch on the 28th November I was excited to see that Vessel would be one of handful of venues in the South West pouring the beers and I was crossing my fingers for one particular flavour from the range to be at the festival. I was in luck as the Caribbean White Chocolate Cake was on and it tasted exactly as I imagined, sweet, creamy and perfect if your a white chocolate fan like me!

Whist I was at the Vessel Beer Festival I enjoyed looking around the room at the range of different people who were attending the event and I was reminded how much I love beer. There was a good mixture of people who were all at different stages of their beer journey from experienced drinkers to “beer geeks” as well as newbies. Having been to some big beer festivals this year it was really nice to see a different side to the industry, the one that first got me involved in drinking beer. I hope that the Vessel Beer Festival has and continues to enthuse a new generation of beer drinkers who will begin a journey that I am still very much on.

Happy 3rd Birthday to Vessel Bottle Shop, hopefully I will be back in Plymouth soon.

Cheers!

IMBCity 2019

It’s been a week since Indy Man Beer Con opened it’s doors this year I am reminded why it has been my 5th visit to one of the UK’s largest beer festivals. To start with the venue is stunning. From the iconic green tiles to the stained glass windows (not to mention that infamous fish mosaic!) you get a real feel of the history of the building and I still can never get over being stood drinking beer in an empty swimming pool! Set within the beautiful backdrop of the baths is a huge range of amazing breweries from around the UK and Internationally showcasing some incredible beers. I’ve given up trying to plan what beers I’d like to try beforehand as when I get there the list always goes out the window!

But its not just Indy Man Beer Con that draws me to Manchester for a long weekend, I also like to take 1 or 2 days to explore the rest of the local beer scene. Living in the South West of the country means I don’t often see beers from the North so when I’m in Manchester for IMBC I make a point of visiting as many places as I can squeeze in during my trip. It’s really important to me to visit the area around a beer festival to show support for the local bars/pubs and brewery taps. I generally have to travel a fair distance to get to beer festivals or events around the country so its nice to be able to make a trip of it and stay a few nights so that I can find out what else is happening in the local area. With many popular venues around Manchester hosting fringe events its a good excuse to go out there and discover somewhere new as well as pop in on some old haunts. This year I had a few old favourites on my list to visit, first of which was the Port Street Beer House which we visited a couple times as they held a few different tap take overs during the fringe. To break up the volume of keg beer that was drank during the festival it was worth the trip to the infamous Marble Arch where you know you can get a great tasting and well kept cask beer. No trip up North is complete without having lunch at Bundobust where we always get excited and order too much food, including the iconic Vada Pav. But when the menu is so authentic and the food tastes amazing its hard not to.

I also really enjoyed discovering a few new places in Manchester this time around such as Beer Nouveau where we received a really warm welcome from Steve and drank a few pints with a some of the regulars. Just round the corner from our hotel was The Crown and Kettle which had such a buzzy atmosphere and boasted a great range of keg as well as cask beers that you can see why this pub is a real hit with the locals. If you need a good breakfast to cure that IMBC hangover then I can I highly recommend going to Dishoom for the double bacon naan! I definitely think that there has been a few more places added to my favourites list for future visits to Manchester.

As we raise a beer and say goodbye to another year of Indy Man I look back and reflect on what a great time I had at the festival. I also think about the amazing time I had at the local fringe events, the people I’ve met and the great beers I’ve drank. Until next year Manchester!

Home Brew and Wedding Bells

I’ve dabbled in home brewing with my partner Josh over the last few years. We started with just a couple of buckets, a basic syphon tube and the kitchen hob. Since then we have upgraded to a three tier system in the garage complete with burners which has increased our capacity and sped up brewing time.

This year we had the honour of one of our closest friends, Matt, asking if we would help create a beer to celebrate his wedding at the end of August. The idea was to be a fun project for the three Best Men, the Groom and myself to be a part of and as a contribution to the Big Day. Matt decided that he would like a tropical ‘Bucks Fizz’ style IPA that used champagne yeast, in keeping with the celebratory theme. He also wanted the beer to be fruity so it could be enjoyed by his family and our friends so chose mango, blood orange and passion fruit as his ‘juice’ element of the classic Bucks Fizz. Josh modified a recipe that incorporated all of this and on Good Friday we decided that we should do a test batch to make sure that it would work. So far we felt that the day went very successfully, and we congratulated our efforts by cooking some burgers using the burner for the boil. What could possibly go wrong?!

Unfortunately problems arose as we came to the bottling our beer. Due to the amount of pulpy fruit mixture was far too thick and resembled a very boozy smoothie, with a much higher ABV then we expected. Despite our best efforts we realised that we could not bring this to the wedding.

We took to the drawing board again but it was already July and we were a bit concerned that we wouldn’t be able to make a beer in time for the wedding. We still wanted a fruity beer so we decided to recreate Partizan’s Raspberry and Lemon Saison, taken from CAMRA’s Essential Home Brewing, as we felt it would be a light, easy drinking beer for the day and it should be fruity enough to appeal to a lot of people. Once again the brew day went successfully and when it came to bottling we kept our fingers crossed that we had produced something good enough to share at Matt’s wedding.

With 2 weeks until the wedding Josh, myself, Matt and Becca (the bride) thought to open up one or two bottles of the home brew just to check it was ok. We had no more time to try again so this was going to be the decider as to whether or not we had anything to bring to the wedding reception. The Saison poured out a gorgeous hazy raspberry pink colour and tasted much better than we expected. I was a bit worried that the beer would be too sweet but it had a great ‘farm yard’ quality to it, typical of a Saison, and some freshness from the lemon. With the ABV coming in at 5% this home brew was more what we had in mind when we first set out to creating a celebratory beer for our friends’ nuptials. And so Cheeky Brunch was born. Named after Josh’s Dad and his loathing of the use of the words ‘cheeky’ and ‘brunch’.

The big day arrived and Cheeky Brunch went down so well with everyone who tried it. It was really great to see so many enjoying a beer that we had made in a garage and nice to hear such positive feedback, especially from people within the wedding party who had been asking about the progress of the brew in the weeks running up to the big day.

The first home brew didn’t go to waste. We still managed to bottle it (after quite a bit of sieving) and have called it Chunky Bastard as it still has the consistency of a smoothie! If anything the experience has taught us to stick to a recipe but we certainly had fun during the process.

The Frome Craft Beer Festival

Nestled within the Mendip area of Somerset is the market town of Frome. Highlighted as one of the ‘Best Places to Live in Britain’ and recently voted the UK’s most stylish town there certainly is a growing buzz around coming here. It is easy to see why, Frome has vibrant markets as well as 50 independent shops and boutiques tucked within the quaint cobbled streets. As it is not too far from me I often visit the Frome Independent Market, held on the first Sunday of every month, to browse through the best of the local produce. There also seems to be a growing beer scene within the town lead by Palmer Street Bottle and Brewed Boy both offering well stocked bottle shops as well as a good range of beers on tap. I have often visited Brewed Boy whilst looking around the market but I didn’t know much about Palmer Street Bottle until more recently. This weekend saw these two go head to head in the battle of Palmer Street Bottle vs Brewed Boy at the Frome Craft Beer Festival.
Held at the Silk Mill Studios, the Frome Craft Beer Festival showcased some great keg beers perfect for a sunny day. Many of the beers were quite sessionable, which was pleasantly surprising, but there were a few exceptions with some bigger beers. As there were only 10 beers on at one time, they were rotated during the sessions, and once it was gone it was gone! Palmer Street Bottle and Brewed Boy each had their own bars ready for battle and were supported by two street food stalls selling Cheese boards and Persian wraps.
The Friday and Saturday evenings were both sold out but I went along to the Saturday afternoon session as the weather looked promising. It was a little quieter than I was expecting, especially as I had seen on Twitter that it was packed out the night before, but there were still a good number of people there and it did have a more relaxed feel. I had a couple of highlights from the session, the first one being Deya’s Just a Glimmer. Very true to Deya’s style this was a beautifully hazy American pale ale full of citrussy juiciness! Far too drinkable and one that I could have drank all day whilst sat out in the sunshine. My second highlight, and one that surprised me, was Woodland Creatures from Left Handed Giant. This was a big pistachio and honeycomb milk stout which I would normally associate with drinking in the autumn/winter or at the end of an evening. I was surprised with how sweet and milky this beer was that it actually could have been an ice cream! 
I don’t know if a winner has been decided from the Brewed Boy vs Palmer Street Bottle battle but in my view I think that they both champion great beers within the town. I shall make a point to drop in on both next time I am at the market and look forward to the next Frome Craft Beer Festival next year!
 

East Bristol Brewery Trail

It was May Bank Holiday and the sun was shining down as five of Bristol’s breweries opened their doors as part of the East Bristol Brewery Trail. Starting in May 2016 the East Bristol Brewery Trail is now in it’s 3rd year. This event is run twice a year, on May Day Bank Holiday and August Summer Bank Holiday, and I have always missed out due to other commitments. This was my first time with my boyfriend and it did not disappoint. The weather was also kind with it being a record breaking hot weekend – not like it usually is on a bank holiday! The breweries taking part were Arbor Ales, Dawkins Ales, Left Handed Giant, Good Chemistry and Moor Beer who all lifted the veil to let us us have a look around as well as sample their great beers. 

Travelling by train I planned my route so I could have a merry stumble back to Temple Meads. Thanks to a GWR Bank Holiday delayed train and that we were also thirsty we took a short UBER trip to our first destination: Arbor Ales. When we arrived there was already a queue for the bar and the atmosphere was building outside. Being that it was the first beer of the day I opted for a sessionable pint of Shangri-La. This was so light and refreshing that I could easily have drank this all day but there was more beers to try. My second beer at Arbor was Space Hardware which at 6.6% was a little bit less sessionable but it was so juicy with tropical fruit flavours. 


We then moved onto Dawkins Ales who were only a stones throw away from Arbor. Dawkins had separate keg and cask bars so we headed straight to cask to see what offerings they had. Due to how busy they were on Saturday there was a slightly limited choice of beers with more running out whilst we were there. Outside the brewery there was a pingpong table with lots of seating so there was great buzz from everyone there. We found ourselves some bar stools inside and watched as a dog played ball with other people on the trail. I noticed how many familiar faces kept popping up as we all followed the East Bristol Brewery Trail. We tried out the keg bar before moving onto the next stop on our trail. 

The walk between Dawkins and Left Handed Giant was the longest break between beers but the cycle path we took was very pleasant although this helped us build up a thirst in the sunny May Sunday. The atmosphere at LHG was busy as expected and we couldn’t find a seat outside but we found ourselves sat on a bench in the brewery. Last time I was here they were installing their new brew kit so there was a limited beer menu but today there was so much choice I was unsure what to go for. The beers we had were right up to Left Handed Giant usual standards, with my half of Sonny Boy being a particular highlight. LHG have such big space inside and out that is perfect for this type of event. Here there was music playing as well as more table tennis tables so this felt like a real party!

The next stop on the trail was Good Chemistry and although we were queuing again for the bar but the staff were really nice and on hand to help make suggestions. The inside was moved outside as there were sofas and carpets in the street for people to sit on. We found ourselves perched on the street kerb outside whilst we enjoyed some of the last of the sunshine with our beers. This was my first time at Good Chemistry and I would definitely come back again as it felt so welcoming and relaxed. 

Lastly we ended our trail at Moor Beer and it felt like we were finishing in our local as we often frequent here. Everyone was in the beer garden soaking up the last few hours of sun and we were no different. I couldn’t think of a better way to end my day than with a PMA which is one of my favourite Moor beers. 


Along this trail it was really good to see such a great turn out of people come and support this type of event. There was a diverse mix of people as well as families with children who were all catered for at each venue. The breweries had really great street food pop ups with a range of different food options, BBQ, pizza, curry and Japanese so you were spoilt for choice. I am so grateful to everyone who gave up a sunny bank holiday weekend to serve everyone as without them it would have been impossible to run the event. I can’t wait until the next one as long as I manage to keep the weekend free this time! 

Missed the Beavertown Bus? – Beavertown Extravaganza 2017


So it’s the day after the end of Beavertown’s Extravaganza 2017 weekend and what a great festival it was. So many breweries spread out throughout the Printworks London which proved to be a great space for this type of event. 4,000 people were said to be attending the Extravaganza and to be honest it didn’t feel like that many as it wasn’t overcrowded. I went along on the first day on Friday and as I was getting closer to the Printworks I could feel myself getting excited. On arrival we were all given a short snifter style glass for the 100ml pours in this ‘all you can drink’ festival. I’d already looked at the beer list before arriving and I thought I had planned out where I was going to get my samples but as we filtered into the halls I was overwhelmed by the amount to choose from – it was like being a kid in a sweet shop. I saw lots of people had come prepared with their beer lists printed out. I even saw one guy had made a spreadsheet with colour codes for which room the breweries were set up in! I found it impossible to stick to a plan as breweries were rotating their beers on two taps each. You just had to get to the front of the queue and decide when you were there. 

My first beer had to be Rubus Maximus, a collab with Wild Beer and Beavertown which has been reprised from 2014 when it was special limited edition batch. I loved this beer when it first came out and was lucky enough to have one of the last growlers from Wild Beer so naturally I wanted to start my Extravaganza day with this. It was just as I remembered, fruity raspberries with a sour kick. It was a good job I went here first as within 25mins of the festival opening the Rubus was all gone! 

Some of the main events that got people talking at the Extravaganza were the Rainbow Project 2017 and Buxton/Omnipollo ice cream beers. As I have already sampled Buxton and Omnipollo’s ice cream beers I decided to give them a miss but from what I heard they were doing soft serve again! I had been looking out for the Rainbow Project beers during the Extravaganza as it looked like they would be served at their respective breweries however in the centre of the festival popped up a stand that was serving all 7. I only managed to try two of the colours, Red – Amanecer Mexicano by Magic Rock & Casita Cervecería and Green – Mojito by Hawkshead Brewery & Modern Times, but I have just ordered a Rainbow case to try at home so look out for that post! There was, however, another green beer doing the rounds at the festival. Troll So Hard brewed by J. Wakefield, a sour lemon and lime Berliner Weisse that certainly looked like it should have been in the Rainbow Project. I didn’t get an opportunity to try this but from what I saw of it walking around the festival is that it was indeed an eerily green colour – hope nobody Hulked out after drinking it! 

I had even more trouble trying to pick what to eat as Kerb had supplied some really great street food stalls with so many different cuisines on display. After doing a few circuits of the food stalls I decided on a steak and chips with béarnaise sauce which hit the spot after a few beers. I also found an Indian street food stall that were selling onion bhajji bowls. These were amazing giant bhajjis served with a drizzle of mango chutney – I could see why the queues from here were so long! 

I saw on Twitter that some people had a few gripes about the Extravaganza, mostly about the queuing and that a few breweries sold out during the festival. To be honest the queuing at the beginning was a bit long but as everyone got into different rhythms the lines got shorter. Also because we were only having 100ml pours people were getting served quickly and you didn’t mind waiting if it was a beer on your list! As for the breweries selling out you could see why as a lot of the big names had the longest queues, Other Half, Wild Beer, Buxton, Omnipollo and Cloudwater to name a few, so it was inevitable that they might be the first to close up. I didn’t feel like this caused me any problems though, there were still plenty of breweries still serving up their beers and it was a good way of trying breweries who I had not heard of yet. 


Overall the Beavertown Extravaganza was well organised with a great display of beers from breweries all over the world. I had such a great time and tried quite a few beers, some I loved and others that weren’t perhaps to my taste, but that is what it’s all about. I can’t wait to go again and hope to see you guys again next year! 

After the Beers of Summer have gone

Its been a busy couple of months over the summer for various reasons but I still found time for some beers. In August London played host to many festivals and fringe events, most notably the London Craft Beer Festival (LCBF) followed by CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival (GBBF). Unfortunately I didn’t make it to GBBF as the beer list didn’t really appeal to me, however I was really excited to be able to attend the LCBF.
Held at the Electric Light Station in Shoreditch, the London Craft Beer Festival was overflowing with great names from the beer industry. My highlight has got to be Buxton’s newest Ice Cream ale range in collaboration with Omnipollo. Buxton kept us waiting with anticipation as they were only serving one keg at a time – when it was gone, it was gone! They were also running their slush machines offering iced beer toppings with each sample. If you’ve read one of my earlier blog posts you will remember that I already fell in love with Buxton/Omnipollo’s first range of ice cream beers – the classic Neapolitan which I was lucky to try whilst in the Buxton Tap. With my eye closely watching the Buxton stand at LCBF I got to try these latest additions to the ice cream range: Popsicle Ice cream Pils, Blueberry Slab Cake and finally the Raspberry Meringue. I honestly felt like a kid in a sweet shop with the range of beers on display. The great thing was that with the smaller servings I could get round and try as many beers as I could! 
 
Although August has been quite quiet for me on the beer front, my diary is packed with events to go to in September. First one on my list is Beavertown’s Extravaganza being held on Fri 8th and Sat 9th Sept. The event boasts a large gathering of breweries and friends of Beavertown from the UK and Internationally. I am really looking forward to the reprise of Rubus Maximus, which was a Beavertown and Wild Beer collab in 2014 and has got to be one of my favourite beers! The Rainbow Project 2017 is also making an appearance with UK breweries pairing up the US again this year. I can’t wait to taste the Rainbow! 
 
Next will be Bristol Craft Beer Festival (BCBF) being held on 15-17th September. In attendance is a range of independent and well known breweries from Bristol and the South West as well as some guests from around the UK, US and Europe. I do enjoy seeing what our local brewers have to offer so I will be looking to see whats new during this festival. 
 
To finish off my September I’m venturing back up north to Indy Man Beer Con at Manchester’s Victoria Baths. In my opinion a great venue for a beer festival with great cubby holes to explore in search for my favourite beers. This will be my third visit to the city and I intend to see what else it has to offer with it’s Indy Man fringe events.
 

 

Maybe I’ll see you there!