Port Street Beer House – American Beer Festival 24/06/2013 – Beer Presentation by Andreas Falt

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(pic : Portstreetbeer.co.uk)

Last night saw the start of the Port Street Beer House American Beer Festival – a celebration of craft brewing, if you will – featuring draught beers of distinction from the gold old, bad old (delete as personal politics dictate!) US of A. There are undoubtedly some great beers that come out of the States and we were going to taste some of them!

As we enter (as is now standard) we received the traditional 5 “raffle style” tickets. Each entitles you to a “sample” of beer being presented this evening (frequently a half pint). The first of these beer was Rogue Farms Good Chit Pilsner by Rogue Brewery from Newport, Oregon. A pale beer at 5.2% abv, it was a nice enough pilsner style beer, quite refreshing, but undistinguished compared to what came later!

20130624_173614(The Rogue is above the President’s head to the left!)

As well as tasting the beers, we were going to be guided through by the Ambassador (love the title!) from The Brewers Association in Europe – Andreas Falt. (The Brewers Association is the body in the US that represents many Craft Beer brewers).

An excellent relaxed public speaker our Mr Falt! He led us through a kind of “time-line” of US Brewing from 1900 through to the “Craft Years” which (acc to the Brewers Association) started in 1980 – effectively with the founding of Sierra Nevada Brewing by Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi in Chico, California and the brewing of their landmark beer Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

The timeline started in 1900 with approximately 3000 breweries operating in the US, these breweries making standard beers of the day including Lagers, Ambers and Bitters. Via Prohibition, The Great Depression and WWII, this number plummeted to less than 50! Prohibition being key here. The brewers that survived did so by still making drinks, just diversifying into fizzy pop production (or Coors Lite, as we know it! Am I the only one actually frightened by JC Van Damme’s teeth? Avoid that dentist!!!)

1965 marked a major brewing point in the US with the purchase of Anchor Brewing in San Francisco by Fritz Maytag and, in particular, the making of their first really hoppy beer, Liberty Ale in 1972.

The explosion in home brewing following the lifting of its abolition by Jimmy Carter in 1975 led, eventually to the setting up of breweries such as Sierra Nevada, New Albion and New Belgium through to the likes of Rogue, Odell etc.

Next came the second offering on the beer front (we’ll skip the CASK CONDITIONED Sierra Nevada Torpedo for now, shall we?) this being Modus Hoperandi by Ska Brewing of Durango, Colorado. At 6.8% abv (note the rising alcohol levels as we go along!), I have never had this legendary beer. Amber, I didn’t get much of an aroma (I generally let kegged beer warm a bit before I drink it!) but in the mouth? A different matter entirely, Quite well-balanced, but with shed loads of tropical fruit and piney notes. This was much more like it!

20130624_205937(Mr Falt in his element!)

There are currently approximately 2800 breweries in the US, of which 1600 are “Brew-Pubs”, a very popular type of venue in the ‘States. Did you know there are 57 breweries (inc Brew-Pubs) within the city limits of Portland, Oregon? Me neither, but I’d love to go! In essence, most beers brewed in the US never get exported far because they are drunk locally. A quick chat through the most popular beer styles (IPA, Pale Ale and Ambers), the relatively recent phenomenon of canning craft beers (Modus Hoperandi being predominantly canned) and the recent introduction of lining the cans to exclude the “metallic taste” and thus keeping the beer fresh and tasting better. (An interesting anecdote about a blind tasting with CAMRA members preferring Maui Coconut Porter – a CANNED beer of all horrors! Ha!)

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The next beer was the Belgian Style Blonde IPA by Sierra Nevada at 7.4% abv (abv rising again!). (The first time that Andreas himself had tried this) Pale, with a bubblegum and cream soda aroma, I’m not sure about this being an IPA, but it would have been the best Belgian Wit I’ve had, if it was from Belgium! A truly excellent smooth Wit, slightly sweet with a hint of banana split. Superb (NEARLY my favourite of the evening!) and apparently a style growing in popularity in the US.

A quick talk from Andreas about the regional preferences for beer in the US (East Coast – European styles, Mid West, slightly hoppier with European influences too – Odell Cutthroat Porter for example, and then West Coast – HOPS from the Yakima Valley!) and the criteria that determines what is actually a “Craft Brewery” in the US. (Amount of beer produced (vast!), independent ownership and traditional ingredients.) Also a little thread on the experimental nature of US Craft Brewers.

Next beer up was up the scale again at 9% abv and was Iniquity Black Ale by Southern Tier Brewing from Lakewood, New York State. An initial chocolate and hoppy, citrus aroma gave way to hints of chocolate overlaid by piney, resinous hops. Black IPAs are not everybody’s cup of Lapsang, but they work for me. And this was excellent. Can also be described as a Cascadian Black Ale. (If anybody sees their Creme Brulee over here, let me know ‘cos my buddy Col REALLY wants one!)

At this point, food was up. Some excellent chilli topped Hot Dogs, but, being slow, everybody else had snaffled all the Jalapenos! Greedy little sausages!!!

Andreas explained as to how, once you go over the 8.5% mark, American brewers start to use the prefix “Imperial”. In response to an audience query, Andreas conceded that there was essentially no difference between a Double IPA (DIPA) and an Imperial IPA, to merriment from the audience! A quick chat re “Barrel Ageing” and sour beers. Also a recommendation about Crooked Stave brewery of Denver, especially for sours.

An interesting comparison of ostensibly similar beers in Sierra Nevada Torpedo and Ska Modus Hoperandi. Both big IPAs but with markedly different hop characteristics (Citrus v Piney resins)

The final presentation beer was from Flying Dog of Frederick in Maryland and was their Green Tea Imperial Stout at 10% abv. With four different malts and hopped with Warrior hops, this was as black as sin and had a lightly smoky nose and offered a boozy promise backed up in the mouth with loads of roast, more than a vinous warming hint and, TEA. I could actually taste tea in all that darkness. I just wanted to wallow in this! That lucky sod Chris stood next to us had two ‘cos his missus wasn’t keen!

A final chat from Andreas. Of 212 Million Hectolitres of beer produced in the States, 7% of this is “Craft”, 15 million Hectolitres (that’s near 3 BILLION pints!). The largest export markets are Canada, Sweden & the UK. But only 1% of US Craft beer gets exported. Just shows how much gets drunk locally! A comment about trying to break into Germany provoked a chuckle or two!

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(POTUS viewed through the PRISM!)

Andreas is an accomplished and genial public speaker. It is obvious that he loves his job (and who wouldn’t!) and is passionate about the beers he promotes on behalf of his employers. This was an excellent event and one I would certainly attend next year! Andreas also told me earlier that he will be involved with an Italian Craft bar at IndyMan later this year. Can’t wait. A nice guy!

It was great to chat with a few people last night, Tyson (all too briefly), Chris and his missus stood next to us (thanks for the chin-wagging!), James & Jon from Joshua Brooks. A wide cross-section of people here tonight, all united by a love of great beer!

Favourite brew? As if you need to ask! The Flying Dog Green Tea Imperial Stout was simply sublime. Followed closely by the Sierra Nevada Belgian Style Blonde IPA, a gorgeous Wit (IMHO!)

Thanks again to MC Jamie and the guys at Port Street for putting on a superb event. Get in there before that Sierra and Flying Dog sell out!

Ooh! Had to have a 1/2 pint or three of the Sierra Nevade Torpedo on CASK! SUCH a gorgeous hugely hopped citrussy beer. Stunningly good and a candidate for beer of the month!

Now. A 10:00 chuck out was a bit early for me, so we (Jaz & I) toddled over to Soup Kitchen for a final beer.

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I suppose it WAS a Monday evening, but it was virtually deserted! But I was SO glad I popped in! Revolutions Brewing! Clash London Porter! Oh I was one happy chap! I’ve been agitating to get their Manifesto Stout over here for a while now, but this will MORE than do! A lovely porter at 4.5% abv with plenty of roast and coffee but significant bitterness in the finish. Can we have some more over that there hill please!

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(Happy days!)

That then was it for the evening. I really enjoyed Andreas’ talks and the beers he presented topped off by a total surprise in Soup Kitchen. Back of the net!

So, Jaz & I go our separate ways, with me towards my chariot, supplied by First Buses!

On that note…’til next time! (Bury / Ramsbottom and the East Lancashire Railway this weekend!)

Slainte!

Bottled Ales – May 2013

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(Yorkshire brewers all!)

As I have said on many occasions, both on this blog and in many a conversation, this is truly a Golden Age for beer in the UK. You can walk into lots of bars / pubs around the country and sample exceptional beers from far and wide. For that, drinkers should rejoice.

However, I am increasingly conscious of the amount of comment given to beers from outside of the UK. Be they from the USA, Belgium, Germany, Italy or wherever, these undoubtedly excellent beers get praised to the clouds. But there is an absolute wealth of beers being brewed by small micros in this country that are superb in their own right. Also many of which are not in thrall to American techniques or styles.

I don’t want to be misunderstood, I adore good beer wherever it may be sourced from. As you will see below, one of the best beers I’ve had recently was made by Sierra Nevada in California. But there is THAT much excellent beer being brewed by UK micros (yes, many using New World hops in many instances!), that that is where my future focus will be when I review bottles. UK Microbreweries.

With my recent visits to both Yorkshire Ales of Snaith and Bierhuis of Ossett, it’s obvious to me that I’ve barely scratched the surface of the number of breweries in one county alone, Yorkshire. I won’t be able to try them all. But I’ll have a bash!

There. Now here’s some belters that I’ve drunk recently……. The format remains the same. I give you the beer, who brews it and where, the alcoholic strength, the style of beer, where I bought if from, bottle size and how much I paid for it. Simples!

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1. Clash London Porter by Revolutions Brewing (Castleford, West Yorkshire) – 4.5% abv – Porter – £2.70 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales

I like the ethos of Revolutions. “Music-inspired beer. Craft brewed in Yorkshire”. All of their beers have a musical themed name. They also brew to abv strength associated with music formats. 3.3% (33 rpm), 4.5% (45 rpm), 6.0% (C60 cassette) etc…. So before I taste the beer, I’m favourably disposed. My first bottle I tried was the Manifesto Strong Stout. That was my bottle of the month in April. Could this live up to that standard?

A slightly sweet coffee aroma to this dark ruby coloured beer. Cream coloured head. Some coffee flavour from the roasted malts, smooth in the mouth and a nice hoppy dryness in the finish. The finish was redolent of a good IPA in its dryness with some hoppy grassy tones. A superb beer that I would put as a dark beer for IPA lovers wanting to visit The Dark Side, like a porter with an IPA touch. A 4.5 beer (The Manifesto was a 5 – I’ve already started a campaign to get a firkin or 2 of that over here!)

I’ve also snaffled a bottle of their Devolution Amber Ale (named after the great De-Evolution – DEVO –  from Akron, Ohio). Can’t wait!

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(A lively devil!)

2. The Chief by Ilkley Brewery (Ilkley, N. Yorkshire) – 7% abv – Double IPA – £3.78 (500ml) – Bierhuis

It’s good to see an increasing number of Ilkley beers ‘over the hill’ now. Booths stock a good range and I even saw Mary Jane at Sainsbury in Bolton today. Things are looking up for Ilkley lovers! However, unless you live in Manchester city centre and can pop into Beermoth on Tib Street, you won’t get some of their ‘specials’. However, this doesn’t appear to be a problem for specialist beer retailers in Yorkshire. On a recent camping trip, I was advised by the owner of Bierhuis (David) that I was only about 20 mins away. How COULD I resist? It was here that I picked up this beer up (David put a couple aside for me).

This beer was a rich gold (almost bronze) colour and had an aroma of boiled sweets, very fruity with a touch of (what I thought was) Belgian yeasty funk. This beer kicked off when it got in the mouth! WOW! Incredibly hoppy (DOUBLE IPA remember) Apricot flavour in there for sure, mango maybe? A piney resinous hoppyness in a very bitter finish. Lip smackingly good. A fabulous beer that was worth every penny of that price! (4.5 SO nearly a 5!)

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3. Barista Espresso Stout by Summer Wine Brewery (Holmfirth, W Yorkshire) – 4.8% abv – Espresso Stout – £3 (330ml) – Port Street Beer House

I drink this almost everywhere I see it on draught. A great beer. But I’d never had it in bottle. So, when I saw an offer of 6 assorted bottles for £18 at Port Street one hazy evening, what was I to do?

This was another lively devil on pouring. A tan coloured head gave off an aroma just like when you tear open a packet of ground coffee. Just like that! But with a hint of spicyness. A lovely smooth texture in the mouth where those coffee flavours came to the fore but with a little touch of roasted malt sweetness. I love this beer on draught and the same applies with the bottled version. Another 4.5 beer!

20130513_213347(I get to use Colin’s JW Lees ‘Grip’ glass!)

4. Lotus IPA by Ilkley Brewery (Ilkley, N. Yorkshire) – 5.6% abv – IPA – £2.21 (500ml) – Bierhuis

Not being bottle conditioned, I was surprised by the liveliness of this beastie. Golden, with an abundance of grapefruit citrus zing on the nose. In the mouth, this was more balanced than the aroma hinted at. Grapefruit yes, but mellower and balanced with a malty digestive biscuit like sweetness. As smooth as cream in the mouth with a dry grassy bitter finish. This gets a 5 rating on value alone! Superb. Thank you Bierhuis!

20130514_211258(The IndyManBeerCon glass seemed appropriate!)

5. Orval by Brasserie Orval (Villers-devant-Orval, Belgium) – 6.2% abv – Trappist Beer – £3.20 (330ml) – Pendle Witch PH, Atherton.

Confession. I had never had an Orval prior to this.

Another lively beast. This russet coloured beer had an incredibly jammy fruit nose with, perhaps, a hint of rhubarb. In the mouth there was the expected Belgian yeasty tones, but with an array of flavours at different stages. Firstly stewed apples and pears and a pear drop sweet flavour. Later on, there was a warming almost medicinal linctus tone which was surprising to me in a 6.2% beer. Initially underwhelmed, by the bottom of the glass I was a convert. A truly lovely beer. (4.5)

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6. Narwhal by Sierra Nevada Brewery (Chico, California, USA) – 10.2% abv – Imperial Stout – £3.69 (375 ml) – Bierhuis

Somewhere beyond black, there is a darker hue. This beer is even darker than that. If sin is this black, I don’t ever want to be virtuous! I opened the bottle and sniffed. Boozy port and spice. I poured it into my new 2/3 pint glass (for which I’m VERY thankful)  to further wallow in those aromas. A milk coffee coloured head, beneath which lurked a REALLY bitter chocolate flavour allied to a vinous warmth. There were touches of licorice root with sweet espresso and a glorious dry bitter spicy finish. To say this beer is “up my street” doesn’t even come close! 5 out of 5! (I’d give it 10 if I could!)

At THAT price, I felt  like I’d stolen it! Again, thank you Bierhuis!

Given what I said at the top, these may be the last couple of non-UK beers I review in a while. But what a pair to go out on, eh? 5 out of 5

Beer Of The Month

Bottled – As if you hadn’t guessed! Narwhal by Sierra Nevada. For the reasons stated above. A superb Imperial Stout.

DraughtImperial Black (Black IPA) by Buxton Brewery 7.5% abv (Port Street Beer House 26/05/2013). I am incredibly grateful to Jamie H that he got 4 halves of this out of the end of the cask! Smooth as silk, black as sin. Incredibly fruity whilst still having some roasted stuff in there. This was an awesome beer. I will drink it wherever I find it. It is THAT good!

On that excited note……’til next time!

Slainte!