Odds and sods

Hello Wakefield!

Slowly but surely, West Yorkshire has beckoned me back. It’s odd how Leeds and its environs feel more like home than the London suburb in which I grew up, but the fact is this: with each move I’ve been drawn closer and closer to the area I fell in love with six years ago. From South London to the fields of Cheshire, to leafy South Manchester, to the hills of Holmfirth, and now to Wakefield, where they’ve just held their annual Rhubarb Festival..! Two of these moves have taken place in the last eight months, which may explain the relative silence from Molyneux HQ.

During that time I’ve been busy with various bits and bobs, including helping out with the writing and beer tasting side of things at Beer Hawk while their sommelier Maggie has been on maternity leave. From the end of the month I’ll be back to freelance work, and also have a mountain of blog posts to catch up on…

I’ll be travelling down to London for Craft Beer Rising on Friday, so come and say hi if you spot me in the crowd! See you then.

A Missive From The Whirlwind

Hello beeries! This blog has been awfully neglected lately; life has been mad. I always admire those dedicated bloggers who can sit down after a hectic day and write a fantastic post, it’s a skill that I am unlikely to ever acquire. We can but try, and so here’s a brief update on what’s been going on in the life of Molyneux…

Well, IndyMan was absolutely killer, and I did mean to blog about it, I swear, but so many talented folk comprehensively covered it that I felt less bad about not writing anything. That, and the fact that we had moved flat literally about five days beforehand, killed that potential post. Papa Mol and the superb Suzy came up for the Friday afternoon session and crashed in my living room, which added to the mayhem! On Saturday morning, Suzy disappeared bright and early to go and work at another beer festival (superwoman? I think so!), and Papa Mol and I whizzed around to a few breweries to pick up some beer for him to take back down to The Hope in Carshalton & The Trafalgar in South Wimbledon. Keykegs, casks, e-kegs and doliums from Runaway, Quantum, Indy Man Brew House, Shindigger, and Squawk all made their way down to London, and I returned to the comfort of my sofa to nurse an well-deserved hangover… Beer of the festival? Can’t pick just one. Arbor’s two year old Goo Goo G’joob impy stout was a thing of beauty, Against The Grain’s Citra Ass Down was exactly the juicy, sticky American IPA that I adore, and Wild Beer Co & Toccalmatto’s Indigo Child was a delightfully sippable sour of some substance!

IndyMan wasn’t the only Mancunian indie of October, with the Independent Salford Beer Festival following a couple of weeks later. Organised by Jim of Beers Manchester, this small but perfectly formed fest was put on to raise money for St Sebastian’s Community Centre in Salford, and I must say, I haven’t seen a cask list that impressive for a very long time. I was back behind the bar pulling cask beer for the first time in yonks (after a year of keg at BrewDog!) and I loved every minute of it. Beer, vibe, attendees and my fellow volunteers: all great. Beer of the festival? Hands down, it had to be Five Towns’ Raven King. Dark, full of coffee, and compulsive.  Well done to Jim for putting together such an amazing festival for a good cause, and I’ll definitely be back behind the bar next year.

Another highlight of October was the chance to visit Marble, one of my favourite breweries, where I got to try Earl Grey IPA fresh from the tank! Blissful, but you’ll have to wait a little longer for a proper write-up of that one.

The thing that’s been keeping me so busy throughout November, though, is my new job! As Twitter folks may know, I’m now working at Chorlton Brewing Company, primarily looking after sales stuff, but also working on other projects and helping out with bits and bobs around the brewery… I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m going to be doing rather a lot of bottling!! I even have my very own brewing wellies, which, having steel toe caps, are actually rather more robust than my DMs. Finding them in a size 4 was not as straightforward as it might have been.

IMG_20141124_203006

 

So my dears, keep an eye on Chorlton Brewing Company. We are specialising in sour beer (happy Molyneux!) and our first, Amarillo Sour, will be out just before Christmas. Updates soon… x

Cans vs Bottles: The Taste Test

all day ipa

I actually considered not running this post for a while, lest I am accused of writing only about contentious subjects post leaflet debacle; fuck it though, it’s what’s at the top of the write-up list (and hardly a hot button topic any more). 

Bottles. Cans. There has been extensive discussion about the pros and cons, including this rather good piece by New Belgium on sustainability. Of course, cans prevent the beer from becoming light struck, but how does this actually translate to taste? One evening in the Northern Quarter, I joined Mike of Chorlton Brewing Company at Port Street Beer House to see if we could tell the difference.

We chose Founders All Day IPA as our test subject because A) it’s easy to obtain in various forms, B) differences in hop character would be easy to pick out, and C) it had travelled from America, so was already less than totally fresh.  Obtaining a bottle and a can, both chilled, we set up a triangle tasting – three sample glasses were poured out of sight of the taster, two containing beer from one packaging, one from the other. This obviously isn’t a perfect test by any means, but we did the best we could on the spur of the moment in a pub garden! I tried not to look too hard at the beer in the glasses before I smelled and tasted it, in case there was a difference in appearance (the above photo was, of course, staged to illustrate a tweet).

Unsurprisingly, the difference was marked, both in aroma and flavour. Of the samples I tasted, two were hugely aromatic, with massive citrus bursts, while one was subdued and a little elderflowery. Yes, it transpired that it was the can samples which were hop bombs, and the bottle which was tired and wishy-washy. “But what about freshness?” you ask: if we read the labels correctly, the beer in the can was older than the beer in the bottle.

This little (poorly controlled) experiment confirmed my expectations: cans are great for hoppy beer! Yes, I know you all knew that already. As you were.

CAMRA’s Sexist Young Members Leaflet

camra leaflet scan high quality 2camra leaflet scan high quality 1

Earlier today, my attention was drawn to this leaflet. No, it’s not advertising a tacky pin-up Freshers club night. It’s the new Young Members leaflet from the Campaign for Real Ale, sent out to affiliated university real ale societies for them to distribute to students. This leaflet is supposed to encourage young people to join CAMRA.

I must admit, when I first clapped eyes on this, I thought it might be a hoax, a cruel joke at the expense of CAMRA in order to stir up antipathy; after all, how could such a huge organisation, full of reasonable people, put out something so archaic and offensive?

What sort of people do they want to attract? Slavering ‘lads’, drawn to the organisation because of the use of attractive women as window dressing? They can’t be hoping to attract young women or non-idiotic young men with these images. I understand that CAMRA want to move away from the stereotype of the beer-bellied beardies wearing socks and sandals, but don’t they realise that by putting these scantily clad models in their recruitment literature, they’re further entrenching the idea that it’s an organisation full of letchy, out-of-touch old men? Surely, this leaflet couldn’t be real?

Sadly, my faith in the sanity of CAMRA Head Office was misplaced. I soon received confirmation from my old friends at Leeds University Union Real Ale Society that they had been sent these leaflets, and that one of their members had started the petition to get them withdrawn. The leaflets were delivered two weeks ago, and since then the members who contacted CAMRA to complain were brushed off with claims that because there were women on the board, the organisation could not create anything sexist. There were also references made to some sort of ‘quality control’ process which the leaflet had undergone.

I was informed by the National Chairperson of CAMRA Young Members that they had indeed been shown the leaflets to approve, but the Young Members committee informed CAMRA HQ that the leaflets were not fit for purpose.

Not fit for purpose.

The YM committee were unaware that the leaflets had been printed and distributed, until today. I suppose that shows how much CAMRA respects the opinions of the people it’s trying to recruit with this outdated mess.

I’ve seen nothing but disappointment and disbelief in response to the leaflet, from CAMRA members and non-members alike (aside from one random person on Twitter who believes that it isn’t an issue). This marketing campaign should have been binned straight off the storyboard, and even if it had somehow slipped under the barriers of, you know, good taste and not alienating people, when the Young Members committee deemed it not fit for purpose, they should have been listened to.

It’s such a pity. Many branches are very reasonable and progressive, but when these sort of attitudes come down directly from HQ, blatantly ignoring the people they’re supposed to be representing, it’s time for me to stop being complicit in this organisation’s institutional sexism.

This isn’t an attack on CAMRA members or the branches. This is just me saying that I’m sorely disappointed in the decisions of the organisation. I won’t be renewing my membership. If you agree that this type of thing isn’t on, please sign this petition which calls for a halt to the distribution of this leaflet.

FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS – I quote Franzi Florack, creator of the petition:

“This morning (14/10/14) CAMRA published a statement which confirmed that the flyers had been withdrawn. Unfortunately it does not acknowledge the sexist nature of the flyers and only states that they ‘would like to apologise for any offence this may have caused’- which neither admits fault nor discusses how this will not happen again in the future.

The statement further claims that ‘the campaign was discussed with young marketing professionals within CAMRA’s Young Membership Marketing Group (YMMG), which is made up of men and women, and they supported this creative’. Whilst this might be true, I have also been informed that the CAMRA Young Members committee saw the leaflets, too, and their protest was ignored.

In my last update, I asked CAMRA to issue
’1. A public apology to the university societies which acknowledges the sexist nature of the flyers
2. A public apology to the CAMRA Young Members board which acknowledges that these volunteers have been deliberately overlooked and a promise that this will not happen again in the future’
and neither of the two has been received.

As a result, this campaign will stay open until a public apology has been issued which acknowledges the sexist nature of the flyers and includes the above apologies. I do applaud CAMRA’s wish to work with ‘CAMRA’s young membership to create a new campaign’, however until fault has been acknowledged there is no guarantee that these voices will actually be heard.

Some people have been calling for CAMRA to create an inclusive manifesto and I wholeheartedly support that idea. These sexist representations of women panders to the sort of gender stereotypes that portray women as sex objects. They also make life difficult for women as well as discouraging women from drinking beer and getting involved in activism to save pubs and other important beer heritage sites.

Please continue to sign and pass on the campaign- we need your support more than ever.”

I also include this screenshot of tweets from the CAMRA Young Members twitter account, which is at odds with claims in the official ‘apology’ that the leaflets were supported by the YM Marketing Group.

YM Tweets

15/10/14: People had been asking for a higher quality photo of the leaflet, and Franzi kindly sent me the scanned copy. Click the pictures at the top if you want a proper look or, as CAMRA put it, if you’re ‘thirsty for more’.

Three More Beers of The Moment

The last month has been a busy one, involving beer shop holiday cover, Westfest, flat hunting, and pub quizzes; I haven’t had time to put pen to paper fingers to keyboard (that doesn’t quite work, does it?). I have, however, drunk some noteworthy beers, and feel that it would be remiss of me not to mention them.

Partizan Mango

Partizan Saison – Mango and Black Pepper.

The subtle black pepper lifts the mango in the same way it does a fresh strawberry. Juicy and delicate, there’s no overstated sweetness. Thirst quenching and compulsive; I want to swim in this.

Poppyland Smokehouse Porter.

What I love about Poppyland is how very down to earth it all seems. The brewery website is full of notes written by Martin, the brewer: honest, straight-forward information about how the beers were made, and Martin’s thoughts and hopes. It’s unusual to come across a brewery which feels so distinctly ‘un-marketed’.

The Smokehouse Porter is an interesting concept, with its malt AND New World hops smoked in a fish smokehouse just down the road from the brewery. The beer’s smouldering bonfire character is livened by a bitter, fresh, citrus note alongside a pleasant, almost oily element. Rather intriguing, and a very positive start to my exploration of the Poppyland beers. Next on my list to obtain is one of their Goses…

Siren Half Mast QIPA.

That a beer of 2.8% could be this full-flavoured and fresh, booming with grapefruit and mango, is a work of genius. I’ve always said that if brewers could make non-alcoholic beer with the same taste and variety as the real stuff, I’d very rarely touch alcohol; for me, the fact that beer gets you drunk is usually an annoyance. Of course, there’s a time and a place for a little pleasant fuzziness, but generally I’m drinking for flavour, with increasing wobbliness a frustrating side effect. Half Mast is an accomplished step towards my perfect world.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All – Beery Anxiety Dreams

I often have dreams about beer, in which I encounter rare, exciting new creations and collaborations, or weird methods of dispense (such as beer-gel sachets which you mix into water). More often than not, though, my beery dreams are about missing out: A while ago, I dreamt that I was in a Wetherspoons but there were no Sixpoint cans left, and so I had to drink Punk IPA instead. Despite the fact that I don’t mind Punk, in my dream this was a harrowing moment.

Pikachu cuddly toy next to a bottle of beer
Pikachu loves Smashton’s CCS DIPA.

Last night, I had what I believe was the most in-depth and ridiculous dream yet. I was at some sort of huge role-playing festival in the grounds of a country house, where there was a typically ‘craft’, starkly decorated, stripped-back beer bar. There were many hand pumps on the concrete bar, and the pump clips adorning them bore pictures of Pokémon. Now, as any nineties kid knows, the Pokémon motto is ‘Gotta catch ‘em all’, in order to become a Pokémon master. The Pokémon featured on the pump clips were the legendary bird-types, which are hard to find, relatively difficult to catch, and those who obtain them are respected. Parallels with the activities of tickers are immediately obvious.

I wanted to try all of the beers on the bar, but was nervous about carrying a flight without spilling it, so I decided to work my way across, two thirds at a time. The member of bar staff wouldn’t give me third glasses, and instead dispensed my beers into champagne flutes. I was also handed a mandatory plate of weird and wonderful street food, which HAD to be paired with the beers, whether you liked it or not (my subconscious clearly thinks I’m a Comment Is Free writer and decided to go all-in with ripping the piss out of the craft scene).

One of the beers was Magic Rock’s Circus of Sour White Wine Lychee, (in my waking life, I had wanted to try this at BrewDog Shepherd’s Bush last weekend, but wasn’t able to be in London) and the other – well, I knew it was some sort of pink special edition fruit infused barrel aged something or other, but couldn’t remember what, and this fact distressed me greatly. Just asking the bar staff didn’t cross my mind. At this point in my dream, I wandered off somewhere else, and when I eventually came back to the beers, they had of course gone, with no chance of obtaining any more.

I woke up feeling rather off-kilter! I think that, having read Brew Britannia, and written it up yesterday, I felt uncomfortably young (hence the Pokémon) and relatively new to everything; five and a half years of committed geekery is nothing compared to most people I know. It was also a reflection on the huge variety we are constantly presented with during this excellent time for craft breweries, and how easy it is to miss out on the one-off special editions.

I am aware that hearing about other people’s dreams can be deathly boring, and am surprised if you got this far! Has anyone else had any strange beer-related dreams?

Seven Sober Days

For a couple of weeks I had been plagued by toothache, which progressed into jaw ache/headache/neck ache so bad that I couldn’t go to work. After finally securing an emergency appointment with the dentist, he gave his grim prognosis: “Your wisdom tooth’s impacted and you have an infection. You need to take these antibiotics  and buy a medicated mouth wash. DON’T DRINK ALCOHOL.” Woe!

The course of antibiotics was five days, with 48 hours after that to allow them to leave my system. I think the last time I was sober for seven days straight was probably when I was about fifteen… This was going to be a challenge, but it was one that I would gladly face to stop the toothache.

Surprisingly, a few sulks aside, the first part of the week was relatively easy, even though I had a number of beers sitting in my fridge, calling to me in their siren voices… Friday night, however, was the biggest challenge. Behind the bar in the city centre, with Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s on tap. Bloody hell. We also had a number of beers on which I hadn’t tried before, so I lived vicariously through the tastebuds of my colleagues and got them to describe the beers to me. Absolutely torturous, as was Saturday night, when I had to sample a beer to check someone’s assertion that it was different than usual. Retreating to a dark corner, I used the wine tasting method – sipped, swilled, and spat. Heartbreaking. Staff drinks after those shifts were a bit of a trial too; I sat there nursing my energy drink and waiting for my lift while everyone around me was enjoying a well deserved beer. The Sunday evening was a long one; dinner with the in-laws. Lovely to see them and to be cooked for, of course, but it’s generally a pretty boozy occasion, and sipping flavoured water rather than the usual wine and pear cider which accompanies those dinners felt thoroughly unfair.

Finally the seven days of sobriety were over, and it was time to crack open a bottle. The beer chosen for this honour was De Molen Pale Ale Citra (4.8%), and my tasting notes were urgently scribbled in unusually florid language (review to follow soon). A week without hops is a long time! I thought I’d want to race through the beer, glugging it, but surprisingly I found myself treating it in a more restrained manner – it’s as though my palate had been re-set, with the hop bitterness being almost overwhelming at some points.

I might repeat this little exercise again in the future (hopefully without the pressing need for antibiotics to force me), as having that shock of bitterness actually make you sit up and take notice is a rare luxury for us hop-jaded craft wankers, and taking the hit of a few days without booze is well worth it.

Traitor!

I feel like I should come clean. I care about you deeply, but can’t keep up the facade anymore. I’ll understand if you hate me… I’ve been… I’ve been writing about other beverages. 

You may have noticed on Twitter or Facebook, but recently I’ve done a few guest posts for Drinks Enthusiast, and I’m absolutely loving it! It’s been a challenge, but a fun one. I promised myself that this year I would start to branch out into understanding spirits and wine better – not at the expense of beer, gods no, I love beer and beer writing more and more every day – but it’s always nice to expand one’s horizons.

So that’s what I’ve been up to! Don’t worry, there’s more beer coming soon, I promise.

C’mon honey, don’t stay mad.

Three Beers Of The Moment

We all know that feeling where you take to Twitter to rave about a beer, but find that 140 characters are’t quite enough, and multiple tweets seem self indulgent. MINI-POST TIME.

BrewDog Blitz Cherry (2.1%). I know it’s a little crass to rave about a beer made by the company you work for, but this is a lovely little Berliner Weisse. The most mouth-puckering of the range so far, this is actually kinda sour, while the varieties which have come before it - Blitz Apricot and Blitz Raspberry - have, to my gueuze-ravaged palate, just been tart. Finding sours very compulsive drinking, I throw them back like fruit juice, often getting through a big bottle of Cantillon in half an hour, so it’s nice to have a beer at an ABV which allows me to drink almost as much as I want without worrying about the booze creeping up on me. Even five percenters add up over the course of an evening…

Mikkeller SpontanCherry Malaga Barrel Aged (8.2%). Brewed at De Proef, this beer has a sticky, heavy aroma which reminded me of Christmas cake… Big boozy cherries, a little marzipan, dark fruits, and vanilla. On the palate, the richness of the nose gives way to fresh, sour, cherries and red grape skin, almost citrus-y clean and slightly funked. A seriously enjoyable beer, though I wish I could afford to buy it more frequently!

Mikkeller Imperial IPA, Citra (8.9%). Also brewed at De Proef, this IIPA is insane. It’s such a good use of Citra! Like biting into fresh fruit and seeing the juices run all over your hands and you’re all sticky but you don’t care because it’s SO GOOD. Ahem. I’ve spent way too much of my wages on this beer recently. I know some people have said it’s a bit malt-heavy and usually I’d be the first to agree with that statement (GIVE ME ALL YOUR HOPS) but I think that in this context, if this beer was any more bitter the full glory of the juicy aroma and flavour might be masked a little bit… The firm biscuit backbone provides a counterpoint for the fruit character to stand out against. Maybe that’s just me, though. The Simcoe version is pretty nice, too.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

A little while ago, as part of a team building exercise, I had occasion to come up with a name, and write a bottle schpiel, for a pretend beer. Only the style and the extra ingredients – all randomly selected – were given. My style was porter, and the extra ingredients were rosemary, and Earl Grey tea. I rather enjoyed this little exercise, and thought I’d post my effort up here, unedited, for a laugh. Bear in mind, we didn’t have too long to work on these, and they were designed to be read aloud to the group. I named the beer ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover‘, and here is the label blurb:

“Porter: a working man’s beer. On the edge of the grounds of a stately home, concealed in the woods, one such working man – a grounds keeper – brewed his beer with the rosemary from his herb garden, and the Earl Grey tea favoured by his lover. How can this delicate, fragrant tea work with the dark, earthy, herbal beer? It’s a clash of cultures, the rough with the refined, a clandestine love affair which should never have been… But once sampled, this six percent romp is a secret you won’t be able to keep.”

Deliberately pretentious? Why, my dear chap, I haven’t the foggiest what you mean… ;)