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Thomas Hardy’s Ale 1991 Vintage

January 20, 2011

Thomas Hardy Ales need no introduction a part of British brewing history, bottle conditioned beers brewed back then by Eldridge Pope until recently by O’Hanlon’s. Sadly O’Hanlon’s have now stopped brewing Thomas Hardy’s Ale so for those of you that are not familiar here is a good link to go by.

Whilst searching on Ebay for Volvo P1800s parts (renovation job) i thought I’d type in beer and see what comes up, well quite interestingly from bottles of Watneys Royal Celebration Ale 1981 brewed for The Prince of Wales & Lady Diana’s wedding too bottles of beers from the Truman Brewery and a Courage Imperial Russian Stout 1993 which I quickly added all to my basket.

There was one chap who was selling a selection of 80 bottles dating back from 1970, a mixture of beers commemorating something or the other and included two bottles of 1991 Thomas Hardy ale. With 5 days for the auction to finish and the current bid at £9 i clicked watch and monitored the bid for a few days, on the 5th day with 5 mins to go to my surprise (shock) the last bid was still at £9. My bid of £10 was accepted and a few days later i was off up the M1 to Royston to collect my beers.

Pulled up at a farm and was greeted by a middle-aged gentleman, nice bloke told me the beers belonged to his step father and he found them whist emptying his late mothers house. I actually felt bad that I paid him only a tenner but he was happy to be shot of them and was surprised someone had actually bought them……i said no more.

Both bottles now 20 years old so you can imagine i was a bit worried about cracking one open and seeing if they would still be worth drinking so I Tweeted the question and a well-known beer blogger Andy Mogg tweeted back saying ‘They should be great’ so i proceeded to see if they would blow my mind.

Poured a Deep Amber color say a Mahogany, as you would expect for a beer of this age it was flat no life in it at all in terms of carbonation. The nose had strong hints of caramel, dark sweet fruits, brown sugar, oak, molasses even. The flavours i believe had become more complex over the years and hence also the strong alcohol presence, it defiantly felt more than the 12% ABV stated on the bottle. A thick sweet syrupy texture on the tongue that which I enjoyed immensely till the last drop of this 180 ml bottle.

My ratings:

Thomas Hardy’s Ale 12% ABV – 8/10

A truly great beer which I am so delighted I opened and now understand why this was one of Britain’s best beers for so so long, people next time your buying stuff on that auction site and you look up beers you know you’ll will be bidding against me  🙂


L’Abbaye des Saveurs

January 13, 2011

I took a trip over to France late last week, was planning to go before Christmas but due to the crazy snow I thought best not get stuck on the Eurostar  for umpteen hours so rescheduled. Really good friend of mine lives about 30 mins drive from Lille into Belgium, quite an eccentric chap and bit of a lord of the manor type. we took a drive around his estate before lunch taking in the views of his 100 acres of land, he regularly organises hunts in this fields (not my cup of tea) but recently he has set aside a large amount of land where he is now growing Barley for beer.

As far as the eye could see were these fields, you could see the Barley just coming up and should be ready to cut by June when it will be turned into Belgium’s most popular export beer.  After a great meal at L’Enoteca in Ramecroix and a few bottles of the excellent Coste delle Plaie a wine from F1 driver Jarno Trulli‘s Vineyard it was time to head back to Lille.

I’d heard a lot about this shop L’Abbaye des Saveurs a specialist beer retailer, based in the Old Town of Lille which is beautiful and i was advised it is in a building which was a 18th century villa. It’s run by Antony and Stéphane two guys both very knowledgeable about beer, we’d called them beer geeks.They helped me with my selection as so much in this shop was new to me, I’m not very familiar with beers from the North East of France and they seemed to stock them all.

Lille is probably the beer capital of France Stéphane advises me and enlightened me with more facts that there are more new breweries in the last 2 years in the North East of France then in any other region. I suppose it’s got to do with the North East being closer to the UK and the current boom of micro breweries we are having, well thats my option anyway.

First few bottles I picked up where La Blonde d’Esquelbecq a 6.5% a very Belgian influence blond beer and Etoile du Nord 5.5% a very hoppy beer right down my street and very IIPA. Both French and both very tasty, if this is what is going to come out of this region then I’m excited.

Next up i picked up a few bottles of a black bier  Black Albert 13% ABV an Imperial stout, quite thick and poured a dark brown creamy head. It had velvety mouth feel and yes its was an intense brew. My other selections was bottles of  Mocha Bomb Struise Black Damnation II 12% ABV. Also a Imperial Stout poured a deep black got a huge nose of roast coffee and dark chocolate, again It had a velvety mouth feel and even better picked up NO alcohol as if had non. WOW what a great couple of beers brewed by De Struise Brouwers Belgium.

Sticking with the Black beers I picked up a couple of Lancelot XI.I 11.1% ABV i was told this beer is brewed on the 1st of Nov and is a beer to bring in the Celtic new year. No surprise the 11.1 % ABV (11th month of the year, 1st day). What great marketing I thought but the guys in the shop were dead serious it is brewed that way…who am I to disagree!  A French beer poured very dark brown again with a creamy beige head. Strong licorice caramel aroma, with some roasted coffee. Some hints of berries smooth and full-bodied. A delicious beer that is only brewed once a year, on the night before 1 November…yep Halloween GULP!

Finally a beer i had heard about but never managed to find it, Agent Provocateur 6.5% ABV no not a beer by Joseph Corre but by Craig Allan a Scotsman worked in a few Scottish micro breweries over a period of time until he packed his bag to the shores of France to do his trade. A Belgian IPA by De Proefbrouwerij (How many beers does this brewery make) Pours a lovely golden colour with a lasting head, Good fruitiness on the nose with hops. dry with a well-balanced bitterness and picked up loads of fruits like grape fruits, lemons even mango. It’s a very nice beer unfortunately they had only 4 in the shop, will have to look out for more.

My ratings:

La Blonde d’Esquelbecq 6.5% – 5/10

Etoile du Nord 5.5% – 6/10

Black Albert 13% – 8/10

Mocha Bomb Struise Black Damnation II 12% ABV – 7/10

Lancelot XI.I 11.1% ABV – 7/10

Agent Provocateur 6.5% ABV – 6/10

L’Abbaye des Saveurs is a great little find and a great pit stop either on your way to Paris or even to Belgium to stock up on your French beers.

L’Abbaye des Saveurs est le specialiste a Lille des bières artisanales. 13 Rue Vieux Murs 59000 Lille, France
03 28 07 70 06

iKi Beer – New Year Detox!

January 6, 2011

Well for most of us the waistline has expanded a little from too many mince pies, chocolates and litres of beer over the Christmas and New Year. I’m happy to continue and indulge more but at my age it’s a bit harder to burn off so best listen to the wife.

I got a bit worried when she said ‘i’ll help you’ and immediately thought oh crap she’s got me a Devina McCall keep fit dvd or even worse some silly detox kit from the pharmacy. Couple of days later she hands me a bottle of iKi beer, yes i stood in silence for a few second thinking is this some sort of devious plan!

I was then told that this beer is Organic and made using Green Tea and that Green Tea has various medicinal uses and health benefits and it is used by many as a way of detox. Green tea is made from unfermented leaves and reportedly contains the highest concentration of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols. Antioxidants are substances that scavenge free radicals and Antioxidants such as polyphenols in green tea can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.

Well after taking all that in and the shock of my wife handing me a bottle of beer, it was time to kill some free radicals. iKi Beer to my joy is 4.5% ABV and brewed in Belgium yep not in Japan to my disappointment as there are some great Craft beers coming out of the land of the rising sun such as Coedo and Kiuchi Brewery.

The back label tell us iKi means ‘Life’ in Japanese and iKi refreshes. Green tea not only gives iKi its body, it also enriches iKi with high levels of natural antioxidants….. well there is only one way to find out! Pours a hazy pale yellow, with a thick white head. The aroma is fruity with flowers some malts and a slight hop. The taste is fresh, sweet. Fruity like citrus. Notes of spices and the aftertaste has the real Japanese green tea taste to it.

My ratings:

iKi Beer (4.5% ABV) – 3/10

Look I’d rather drink this than make my house shake to a celebrity keep fit video…….erm maybe depends who the celebrity is 😀

iKi beer was purchased at Japan Centre 14-16 Regent Street, London, a Japanese supermarket and restaurant.

Masala Chicken – North Indian Stylee

January 4, 2011

Last year i had to make a short trip to New Delhi on business, it was February so the weather was not too hot but bearable. I mainly on my trips visit Bangalore, Mumbai or Chennai so i was excited when i was told about this destination and no matter what amount of work i had to do i was going to take out time to visit a restaurant all my friends had been boasting about eating at.

Based in the 5 Star (no i didn’t stay there) ITC Maurya is the Internationally acclaimed Bukhara restaurant, ok a lot of people say and even i that 5 Star hotel food is too touristy Ahh Ahhh not this one. The flippin queue for the restaurant was massive and were mainly citizens of New Delhi hardly any residents of the hotel so that said a lot.

The fit out had dark-wood beams, copper urns all over the place, and blood-red rugs, defiantly reminded my of Northern India. You could see the Chefs running around like head-less chickens ( Like the pun)  behind big glass windows and what i counted to be at least 12 tandoori ovens.

I went straight for the Masala Chicken and it did not disappoint, exactly as my friends at told me it would be immense aromatic flavours totally mmmmmm. looking around i noticed a lot of people were eating a black lentil curry, i asked the waiter what it was and he explained that even thou the restaurant is famed for its meat dishes the most famous dish was actually called Bukhara’s dal a black lentils curry simmered overnight with tomatoes, ginger, and garlic and you know what it rocked! It was incredible so creamy because of the ghee and they also had variations with Paneer, I highly recommend it.

Back to the meat dish i eventually managed the chef to give me the recipe for the Marsala Chicken (East End charm) so yesterday whilst tidying up my cupboard i found it, had totally forgot and as the Christmas Turkey had finally finished i got cooking.

Cracked open a few bottles of Thornbridge Jaipur and sat back reminisced about Buckhara.

Here’s their recipe for you guys to enjoy and it don’t matter if you add more of the spices than i suggest…well not too  much.

First mix together

2 Part Garam Masala

1 Part Cumin Powder

1 Part salt

Rub the above on to the Moist chicken and leave for a minimum of an hour.


Then blend the following together

1 small onion

4 parts of garam Masala

2 parts of salt

4 parts cumin powder

1 part of Paprika

1 part of Turmeric

1 part of Red powder Chillies

.5 tea spoons of Ground Ginger

5 Cloves of Garlic

1 table-spoon full of Yogurt

1 table-spoon of mustard oil

3 table spoons of vinegar

Add green chillies to taste

Once Blended brush on to the chicken with a basting brush, leave refrigerated an hour or so. Leave in the oven for 45mins on 175% turn once after 20 mins.


Totally Trashed – Brew Dog Trashy Blonde!

December 29, 2010

I’ve always followed the rule “If it’s not broken don’t fix it” Trashy Blonde brewed by the rather enthusiastic Brew Dog team is a pretty good beer anyway, OK it’s 4.1% ABV but I can forgive them for that. I have been an avid follower of this brewery since I became aware of their existence at Beer Exposed back in 2008, great beer event shame the organisers never got to do another.

So the guys north of the border have decided to give this beer a makeover, so I got myself a bottle of each and done the taste test. I found the current Trashy Blonde had an herbal and biscuity aroma, with a hint of lemon and thyme or is it Passion Fruit and a malt background reminiscent of butterscotch. You can tell it’s a English beer you could even mistake it as a best bitter, full-bodied and very dry in the finish and very drinkable. It’s defiantly in my session beer category.

The possible successor the prototype the first thing I noticed was it was slightly darker, could be my eyes still recovering from Christmas. It definitely is much hoppier which I prefer and yes the Passion Fruit and Citrus still comes through also you could pick up the yeast more and still get the dry bitter finish. You know what  this reminds me of a few Belgian Blonds I’ve drunk recently yes this version is very Belgian in indeed.

I also read that the name will be changed to Euro Trash! Will we see Pepe and Popo or even Jean-Paul Gaultier promoting the beer with a topless German Blond! Could the Belgian influence I’m picking up and the name change be the beginning of a European influance…………..whatever it is I’ll have some.

Golden Pint Awards 2010

December 28, 2010

So many great beers i’ve tasted this year, what a year!  This list I have had to amend 5 times! Ok this is it…..and the Winners are

Best UK Draught Beer – Redemption brewery Pale Ale

Best UK Bottled Beer – Brew Dog Punk IPA

Best Overseas Draught Beer – Rouge Brutal Bitter

Best Overseas Bottled Beer – Daas Blond

Best Overall Beer – Thornbridge Jaipur (No Surprise)

Best Pumpclip or Label – Grain Brewery All Beers

Best UK Brewery – Thornbridge

Best Overseas Brewery – Nøgne ø

Pub/Bar of the Year – Rake

Beer Festival of the Year – GBBF

Supermarket of the Year – Waitrose

Independent Retailer of the Year – Kris Wines (Camden)

Online Retailer of the Year – My Brewery Tap

Best Beer Book or Magazine – not found one yet…

Best Beer Twitterer – @PeteBrownBeer

Best Brewery Online – Brew Dog

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year – Mont St Aubert and Prawn Curry mmmm

In 2011 I’d Most Like To… – Visit GABF, Visit Coedo Brewery Japan

Open Category: – Best new brewery – Kernel Brewery

Stockholm Beer Festival 2010

December 21, 2010

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit the Stockholm beer and whiskey festival as part of the UKTI mission to promote British beers in Sweden. I jumped at the chance as a friend of mine attended it last year and all we heard for several months was how good it was and how he had such a good time.

Like most cities during a festival or trade fair it’s a nightmare finding accommodation and if you do your paying through your nose, the list of hotels the UKTI gave me were located in the equivalent of London Mayfair. So no guessing quickly done my own Google search.

Discovered The Red Boat, yep a boat moored within walking distance of the Gamla Stan the old town, the most wonderful views across old and new Stockholm and at a bargain price. Great result and I was even given the Captain’s quarters which has a large wheel which thankfully did not control the ship.

Discovered several pubs on Södermalm walking distance from the boat and they all stocked a huge range of beers from all over the globe, I was well impressed as I’ve not seen such a selection over here. If your going to Stockholm then I do recommend a pub called Oliver Twist near the Central Train Station on Repslagargatan, you will not be disappointed.

The UKTI had organised this place as a pre show get together and laid out drinks and a meal for us plus i got a chance to meet the brewers from the UK who had come over to promote their beers. I won’t mention any names just in case but you know who you are and great meeting you.

Stockholm Beer and Whiskey festival is held in a venue called the Factory in Nacka Strand a very nice part of Stockholm and organised by Stockholm’s Öl & Vin AB headed by the delightful Marianne Wallberg. The setup was not like the GBBF, it has several halls one with distributors showing off brands they carried from the US and UK and then a hall for Swedish brewers and another for just spirits. This festival attracts around 25,000 visitors each year and I can say Beer not Vodka rules here.

The distributors hall had the big guns these guys had the all international brands and are the main suppliers to the Systembolaget the Swedish Alcohol Retail chain and the only place allowed to sell alcohol other than a pub bar or restaurant. Serving a market of 10 million Swedes, Systembolaget is one of the world’s largest buyers of wine and spirits from producers around the world.

Two of the main players were Great Brands who had the largest selection of US beers I’ve even seen and Galatea for European beers and Cask who is distributing Brew Dog and doing an incredible job. But being in Sweden I wanted to taste the local beers so I headed in the direction of the local brewers.

Craft beer is certainly what it’s all about the brewers I met are taking brewing very seriously, creative experimental and certainly not shy to try out the unusual.

Theses are my top three to look out for:

1, Nils Oscar – Currently brews approx 18 beers and has recently launched a range of spirits.  One I sampled was God lager, which means ‘good’ and is also now available in the UK. India Ale (IPA) which I thought was terrific pours a coppery colour nice spicy aroma and really hoppy just as I like it.

2, Närke Kulturbryggeri – These guys were rock n roll defiantly ones to keep an eye on and certainly not shy to experiment. Närke Bäver is just that Bäver meaning Beaver (you know where I’m going now) is brewed with Castoreum which is the name given to the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature North American Beaver (I’m not joking) and it smells of piss but I put my hand up it tasted flipping good drinking with my nostrils closed. They also had normal beers and I tried Närke Mörker a dark beer oozed roast, coffee, toffee and malts in aroma.

3, Sigtuna brygghus – Based in Arlandastad is one that’s very strong on branding and again not shy to experiment. Recently launched Imperial Stout at 18.5% called Ace of Spades unfortunatly was not available at the festival. I tried the South Pacific Pale Ale 5,4 % Gold in colour. Pineapple aniseed aromas hoppy taste with much grapefruit. Extra Sigtuna Bitter 5,6 % I’m told was good but I never got round to that one.

A very educational three days at the Stockholm beer festival highly recommend visiting next year event if you can, great atmosphere nice people and good beer….great night life.

From what I can see, the Swedish are coming.