Beer from the crypt. All Hallows Porter 2009

It's Halloween. I was looking for some suitable beer in the cellar to mark the occasion. Halloween 2009, I brewed what I dubbed All Hallows Porter, which was ready to drink at about Christmas. Very nice it was too, by Jove. I remembered it today – a little wistfully, as this was the last brew I did. As I poked around in the damp boxes, I wondered if any was left. There was! So that, and a bottle of BrewDog/Stone Bashar I thought would do the trick and be a treat into the bargain.

With your own brews, it's a bit hit-and-miss how they keep over a month, let alone a year, but this has kept perfectly. A reassuring pfft and swirl of vapour as the cap comes off. Pours a dark ebony, just this side of Les Paul black, with a substantial cappuccino head. Aroma is chocolate mousse and it certainly tastes chocolatey with a delicate roasted maltiness that tails off into that silky chocolate mousse again in the finish. I'm very proud of this – I don't think I've brewed a better beer. Just the encouragement I need to get the gear out again. Perhaps I should make this an annual brew, but this year's would be a Guy Fawkes Porter.

If I brewed it again, I wonder how I would tweak the recipe. Things in my beer world have changed so much since I brewed the All Hallows Porter. Perhaps some dry hopping and a touch more roasted bitterness would move it towards the Bashar, with its earthy, hoppy backbite.

How Douglas Adams saved my career

Risking a blogging about blogging circular nightmare, I hope you’ll indulge me in going off topic for a bit, while I mention that I’m guest blogger on the Firehead website. My first appearance as a guest blogger anywhere.

Find out how I connect Douglas Adams, tech. writing, and content strategy.

No malt was harmed in the writing of the post. Thinking about it, that can’t be right.

Back right on topic soon when I finish writing up the post on visiting the Tullbardine distillery with some former members of  Gentle Giant, and having a few Scottish craft beers.

GORGG visits Tullibardine Distillery

Sent using a Sony Ericsson mobile phone

Around the year in beer festivals

I never used to go to beer festivals, even when I was a student. Didn’t see the point. I mean, why go to a place with a huge variety of beers only to drink pints of the same old stuff you can get at your local? Mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all. Never fancied Munich either; Oktoberfest and drinking out of buckets? My idea of nothing to do. And then came Stockholm, and I got a kick out of you.

It was at the Stockholm Beer Festival in about 1995 that the penny finally dropped. And at this year’s festival, at the end of September, I resolved to have a year of beer a variety of beer festivals and see if I can get a bit of local flavour posted to The Nightjar blog.

So what happened in Stockholm that turned me on to the beer festival? The first revelation was the glassware itself. Instead of the standard straight pint glass, the beer was served in an elegant glass designed for tasting, with a line at 15 cl for samples. No big deal to throw away 10cl if you discover a particular choice is not what quite you wanted. The second a-ha moment was when I realised a beer festival, instead of being a fast track to debilitation and hangover, could be a celebration of beer’s diversity.

The following summer, I went to my first beer festival in the UK: the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF), applied the Stockholm principle, it worked, and I’ve been using it ever since. Mostly, it’s been CAMRA local festivals: Woking, Bletchley, Farnham, North London, but always interspersed with Stockholm every September (nowadays, the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival).

The itinerary is as yet undecided, although I would like to include Copenhagen, in May, especially as I missed this year’s. Copenhagen is a showcase for craft beers of Northern Europe. There will be GBBF in August, and perhaps I’ll even venture to somewhere new: Belgium, or somewhere exotic like Manchester for the Winter Ales festival. What I really want to do though, is go to the Great American Beer Festival. That would be the perfect culmination. I’ll keep you posted.

Stockholm started me on my festival career, let’s start this journey of Around the Year in Beer Festivals with Stockholm earlier this month. 

Next up in the Around the year…. calendar: No. 2: Woking.

Gallery: Stockholm 2010, Copenhagen sample glass, CPH 2009, GBBF 2010, Stockholm 2009


Gold, silver and bronze: Mild Malts, Stockholm Whisky Competition

A quick sample of the medallists in one of the 18 categories in the Whisky Competition at the 19th Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival.
Mild Malts: Yamazaki 12, Yamazaki 18, and Glenfarclas 21.

Mild Malts as opposed to smoky. These three are great. Fun that the youngest took the gold.

A trip out to the Stockholm Archipelago starts here

Last day in Stockholm and we are taking a RIB safari out to the Archipelago. This is one of those experience presents. This is my birthday present from MaltBrotherInLaw Jonas and family. Hold onto your hats!

Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival: Threatened or Thriving?

I’d been worried about the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival (SBWF) for about six months. It seemed to me to be under threat from two Scandinavian competitors: the Copenhagen Beer Festival, and oddly, itself. SBWF has such a special place in my affections, it feels like my own pet festival. It turned me on to American craft beer, ignited my passion for whisky, and convinced me that beer festivals can be so much more than the Oktoberfest model. I think it has done the same for 10s of thousands of visitors.

The Nils Oscar beer menu, with barman and pump clip

The Taste Experience was nothing to be afraid of either. It was very tastefully done and, as witnessed in the Swedish beer section, it far from diluted the beer and whisky event. A very neat piece of marketing to a sophisticated market.

Where once it had seemed daring to order a Kilkenny instead of a Falcon or a Guinness, Sweden is now a dream country for craft beer and whisky lovers, and a very important market. The Bishops Arms pub chain, had their own stand with a range of Fullers on draught and even a specially-brewed Mikkeller. Oliver Twist had its usual exhaustive range of stellar American beers: boasting Rogue and Stone on draught, and far too many bottles to mention. Wicked Wine were showcasing Sierra Nevada and Flying Dog Ales. No wonder the BrewDog’s James Watt attends the event personally. He knows his market here is very knowledgeable, and equally, if not more important than back home.

As well as BrewDog, we in the UK have our own inspiring new breweries like Thornbridge, Marble, Saltaire, Hardknott, and Meantime, to name a few. We have a buoyant craft beer scene based on real ales, but there is so much more to the beer world. I really hope we can learn from the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival – and Copenhagen, who are helping to put forward the image of beer as a sophisticated beverage.

Marianne Wallberg, the organiser of the festival has, for the 19th year in a row, got her finger on the pulse, and it is very strong. The sophisticated Swedes are showing that knowledge about beer and a thirst for diversity are a sound base for a thriving scene. Threatened? Oh me of little faith.

Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival site. This should be the English version, but if it frames you out, there is a flag to click on.