Archive for May, 2014

Craft Beer in Cans

I’m a steadfast believer in canned beer. Don’t be shocked, I’m not about to replace my reassuringly expensive craft brewed beer with cheaper-than-water-piss-in-a-can. Oh no.

What you are about to experience over the coming months, first here in London, then latterly all over the UK is the next big trend in craft beer. Craft beer in cans.

What’s with the trend?

When it comes to beer, we are still taking the lead from the 2800 or so craft breweries in the United States. Back in ’02 Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues Brewery turned the beer industry upside down when it became the first U.S. microbrewery to bring craft beer to market in aluminium cans only. Back then people still frowned upon cans as a cheap way to deliver lager-style cheap beer and still associated cans with college kids, hipsters, and… other cheap beer. Today, over 300 US breweries sell beer in cans and canned beer is now the biggest growth area in the US beer market.

Why cans?

The arguments in favour of canned beer are overwhelming. Here are a few:

  • Cans are lighter and cheaper for the brewery and distributor to ship. Since breweries pay distributors by the palate, you can fit 30% more cans per palate than bottles. This means we get great beer, cheaper.
  • They are recyclable. This is good for the planet.
  • Cans don’t break.
  • Cans are easier and more convenient to bring along on outdoor activities such as BBQ’s, festivals, picnics in the park, beach trip or any type of outdoor pursuit where good beer is required!
  • Cans get cold quicker and take up less space in your fridge! This means you can have lovely cold beer quicker and put more beer in your fridge!

The overwhelming argument in favour of cans though is taste. Beer cans have a micro thin water-based polymer lining that eliminates any metallic contamination or flavours. Nobody wants a mouthful of nails. The seal is better than bottle caps at preventing air from getting in. Oxygen is a big enemy of beer, causing oxygenisation which can happen over time if there is not a perfect seal on your craft beer. Cans are 100% opaque which means no nasty sunlight can attack your beer.  Sunlight can cause it to become ‘lightstruck’ or have a ‘skunked’ flavour. This makes it taste like Heineken, definitely a big no no.

Cans are cool

Canned beer is cool

The only thing cooler than a craft beer is a craft beer that looks fantastic. Cans certainly achieve this with their sometimes outrageous designs, bright colours and attractive packaging.

Cans are also a more relaxed alternative to bottles which fit well with the relaxed dining, street food and popups vibe. You can find wicked canned beer at Byron burgers for instance. As Chris Hall also mentions in his excellent blog post on cans (https://thebeerdiary.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/yes-we-can/) a movement of craft beer towards cans may even provide an opportunity for bottled beer to stand out as a more rare or specialist product, maintaining the important tradition of bottle fermentation which emphasises fuller flavours, natural carbonation and successful aging of beers.

Nobody should drink quality beer directly from the can or bottle. Since 70% of the flavour is said to come from the aroma, great beer should always be consumed from a vessel where you can appreciate the beautiful aroma by getting your nose stuck in there. This is clearly impossible from a can or bottle. Never fear… new technology is the States is enabling ‘topless’ canned drinking where the whole top of the can is removable! I cant wait to see this over here.

innovative beer can

Early adopters

You have probably seen canned beer by Camden Brewery and Brew Dog in bars or at the supermarket already. They have realised the benefits and got the ball rolling. Fourpure in Bermondsey recently started selling cans from their own canning line and this week Beavertown in Hackney canned their first beers.

Even premium purveyors of fine beer such as Pilsner Urquell are moving towards the canning line. Budwiser Budwar commissioned a canning line for its original lager and dark lager this year.

Apart from the obvious benefits I mentioned above, the cost of canning beer has also reduced over the years. The canning companies have reduced their minimum order size and the makers of the canning plants have developed smaller, cheaper lines. This all means that it is more accessible for niche craft breweries to get their fantastic beer into cans.

So there is my looking glass into the future… I believe cans are coming and for me this is good news as they look great and keep the beer at in prime condition for our drinking satisfaction. Weatherspoon’s have recently started selling cans across their 900 pub estate but I’m yet to venture into one to confirm this. On the flipside, I have also read that the Sixpoint beer (from the US) they are serving has not exactly been welcomed by the Weatherspoon’s faithful (you can read the debate here: http://tandlemanbeerblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/the-can-canned.html) so perhaps the speed of the can-invasion I am envisaging is a little way off yet. Time will tell.

What do you think about canned beer? Are there any other craft breweries doing cans that I have not mentioned?

 

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Calling all foodies, chocoholics and craft beer lovers! This Saturday May 31st I will be holding one hell of a gourmet tasting… Craft beer and ethically sourced chocolate pairing in partnership with Co&Co Chocolates.

We haven’t quite hit our minimum ticket sales for this event yet, so I want to urge you to follow the link below and come join us for a very special and unique tasting event.

Connor from Co&Co is an expert chocolatier specialising in ethically sourced chocolate from around the world.  We have a mind-blowing craft beer and chocolate pairing menu to share with you for the ultimate saturday indulgence.

Perfect for guys and girls, we will share tit bits and stories behind each product and why we think beer and chocolate make such great bedfellows.

Please join us this Saturday (31st May) from 4-6pm where we have the run of the place at The Coach and Horses in Clerkenwell

http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/craft-beer-and-gourmet-chocolate-tasting-tickets-11355132507

 

More info on Connor and Co&Co here

 

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Hi everyone

I just wanted to quickly remind you that if you are In London this weekend then there is no better place to enjoy your Saturday and Sunday nights than Brixton Cornercopia where A Grape Night In, Jimmy’s Underground Popup and I are running a two day popup to see in the summer. At Brixton Summer Party expect incredibly summery wine, awesomely tasty craft beer and a menu of wild rabbit, tunas, scallops and heritage tomato!

We will have the brand new Session IPA and Pilsner IN CANS from Fourpure (if you are unsure about cans then you just have to try it!) alongside beautifully summery wheat beer Wu Gang Chops The Tree by Pressure Drop and the stunning Saison (brewed with Mouteka and fresh lime) from Brew By Numbers. This will be spectacular.

Book early to get a table for only £10 (including free cocktail and nibbles) or just pop along for a casual beverage. http://www.edibleexperiences.com/p/133055/A-Grape-Night-In/3185002/Brixton-Summer-Party?ref=agni

Beer & Chocolate Tasting
If you like beer or chocolate then you absolutely must book up our Saturday afternoon craft beer and gourmet chocolate tasting popup in Clerkenwell on Saturday 31st May. This is such a unique event it would be a real shame for you to miss it! We have some outstanding ethically sourced chocolate for you to taste which Connor from Co & Co will explain all about, paired with some rich, creamy, spicy and fruity beers!

The Earlybird discount for this runs out on FRIDAY. Don’t miss it! https://beerandchocolatetasting.eventbrite.co.uk/?discount=Chocolate

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Get your party hats on people.  In a change to my usual tasting routine I’m going crazy and holding my next two events on a saturday.  I have two incredible events lined up, back to back in May.  Both of these will be great for those of you who love their beer, but there is also something in it for those wine lovers and chocoholics… read on.

Saturday 24th May – Brixton Summer Party

Brixton Cornercopia – Brixton Village, Brixton (65 Brixton Village Market, SW9 8PS )

Brixton Summer Party

This is going to be one hell of a celebration of incredible craft beer, beautiful wines and stunning food.  This is a collaboration between myself, the lovely girls from A Grape Night In and the super talented Jimmy from Jimmy’s Underground Restaurant, one of the best popup restaurants in London.  Both the girls from A Grape Night in and I will be working the room to bring you the stories behind the incredible beer and wine and to help really bring them to life.

We are throwing a party to celebrate the start of summer with some of the best food and drinks around.  If you are in London over the bank holiday, I doubt there will be anywhere in London which will have better beer, food or wine over that weekend!

Tickets are available through Edible Experiences: http://www.edibleexperiences.com/p/133055/A-Grape-Night-In/3185002/Brixton-Summer-Party?ref=agni

HE FIRST 60 TICKETS SOLD ARE ONLY £10!!! (Once these are sold standard tickets will be £12 ea)

 

Saturday 31st May – Gourmet Chocolate and Craft Beer Tasting 

The Coach and Horses – Clerkenwell (26-28 Ray Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 3DJ)

Beer and chocolate tasting

The following saturday I’m teaming up with my friend Connor Friesen, founder of Co&Co, to bring you a gourmet tasting extravaganza.  Connor is an expert in sourcing ethically produced chocolate and pairing it with coffees, whisky, and teas. This time we are going one step further, delving intimately into craft beer and chocolate pairings. Intrigued? You should be. Do your mouth a favour and come along.

Earlybird tickets last until midnight on Friday 23rd May.  We expect this to be a sellout so get in EARLY!

CODE: “Chocolate” https://beerandchocolatetasting.eventbrite.co.uk/?discount=Chocolate

 

Check out Connor’s website at http://coandcochocolates.bigcartel.com/

 

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Am I the only man waving the flag for St George? Call me patriotic but he was one helluva guy. You can read more about the lad’s exploits with Roman Armies, crusades and dragons here. Luckily a few people in the media picked up on the event, The Telegraph and Gizmodo, but more importantly 24 beer crusaders came down to taste and learn about some brilliantly patriotic brews.

We kicked off the evening with a blind tasting, something local, golden, refreshing and fruity. A nice sessionable ale to get the cogs whirring and the taste buds tingling. Brewed just around the corner by Sambrooks, their Wandle Ale (named after the River Wandle which joins The Thames at Battersea) worked excellently as a warm-up beer, served with a nice warm scotch egg. Yum.

English beer number two was a beautiful Grisette Saison by our friends Partizan Brewery. This was aged in burgundy barrels providing a wine grape like flavour and acidity, pleasant oaky flavours along with the dry estery, farmhouse flavours of a well made saison. The teeny tiny bubbles prickled your palate and provided a pleasant refreshing tonic for your tongue. This went down very well, especially with some of those in the audience more au fait with wine than beer. The delicate saison requires something equally refined as a food pairing. The smoked salmon bellini worked well, playing nicely with the light oaky character from the barell aged beer. I was sure to announce that the saison style and the technique of barrel aging beer are both set to shine over the coming months and years. Look out for these, as well as sour beers popping up on the beer menu’s around town.

Meantime Brewery in Greenwhich is one of the largest, most modern breweries in London (with a fantastic brewery tour) and it also makes some great beer. My favourite is the Yakima Red. This beer is less common than some of the other beers in their range, but it has great big bold fruity, nutty, caramel flavours. If you are looking for a beer which blances flavour, with drinkability but still has the refreshment you’d want from something a little lighter then this is a great choice.

Typically audacious flavours from The Kernel Pale Ale were next on my menu. Inspired by big US beers, the Citra, Centennial and Cascade hop combination is a great example of what an English brewery can do using some punchy US hops. I am rarely disappointed by these guys and their beers are always packed full of flavour and tropical aromas which is why I love to use them at my tastings. I can only apologise for any false advertising when it comes to this pairing. I’d never seen the vegetable kebab interpreted as ‘salad on a cocktail stick’ before. This failed to deliver the smoky and sweet flavours I had envisioned that a roasted vegetable kebab might bring to offset the citrus bitterness of the pale ale.

By the time of the fifth beer of the evening, the night had really got into its stride and so it was time to wheel out some of the big boys. The Fullers London Porter is an undisputed English beer champion having collected numerous awards over the years. It is currently rated number 4 in RateBeer.com’s top English beers. The beer teases you with a variety of chcolately, smokey and coffee flavours whilst remaining quaffable and not overly intoxicating. There were plenty of nodding heads appreciating the combination with a juicy char grilled burger patty.

We rounded the evening off with Sam Smith’s Oatmeal Stout (rated number 8 in RateBeer.com’s top English beers). The sweetness of this stout comes from the small addition of oats into the brew. This style is seeing a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to Sam Smith’s who brought the style back from obscurity in the 1980’s having not been brewed since pre World War One! I particularly liked how this beer was smooth and velvety (due to the oats) but even more complex in flavour than the Porter.

I tried to bring some of the outstanding examples of a range of styles produced by some of the best English Breweries around. I think all in all there was something for everyone. If you attended the event, which one was your favourite? Would anyone volunteer a suggestion for any different beers to be included?

I’m thrilled that this month I’m holding a beer and chocolate tasting with my friend Connor Friesen from Co&Co Chocolates. This is on Saturday 31st May and I’d love to see some of you again at this event! https://beerandchocolatetasting.eventbrite.co.uk/?discount=Chocolate

29 Cornwall Road

London SE1 8TJ

The White Heart, Waterloo.  Boozer worth seeking out

The White Hart, Waterloo. Boozer worth seeking out

I’m unsure which emotion to use when describing this place… Part of me is ‘ahh, this place is so cosy, warm, inviting, historic I want this to be my local!’ kind of way, or ‘ahh! How have I never discovered this place before, it is aweseome!’.

I was brought here by a friend as we were looking for a place to dive in for a drink after a wander along the South Bank.  Located conveniently close to Waterloo as well as the The South Bank, this is your perfect destination pub.  It’s in spitting distance of Waterloo, convenient for when trains are cancelled and easily walkable if you want a decent beverage and can’t face the tourist traps along the South Bank.

The pub itself is a Mitchells and Butlers’ owned establishment nestled in a cute back road amongst neat and pretty terraced cottages.  You can feel the history of the place even before you enter.  It skilfully toes the line between Oldy Worldy Dickensian character but is light and airy enough that you don’t need night goggles to see the person opposite.  I liked the traditional central bar despite it taking up 80% of the potential seating space but it adds character and breaks up the room so every table feels like it is in its own little space.

The beer is also very good.  It has a large selection of taps (up to 20) serving a variety of good European pilsners and wheat beers alongside some of the larger London breweries like Camden and Meantime.  Mainstream craft beers from UK, Belgium and USA are attractive enough to bring in a younger crowd and satisfy most beer geeks. They also serve 3 Cask Marque real ales on rotation.  There was also some decent nosh available and I am told it’s a great place to graze on a hearty roast whilst absorbing the Sunday paper.

It’s a gem of a pub, heaps of character without being full of old codgers and completely unbeknownst to 95% of the commuters passing right by its door each day.  So now you know.