BrewDog Does Burns Night 2011, Part 1

“Beer tastings are sooo 2010” says BrewDog’s James Watt. He almost accuses the assembled diners at the White Horse pub in London’s Parsons Green. It’s Burns Night Supper BrewDog style. A seven-course variation on a traditional Burns Night – what else would you expect from Scottish brewers BrewDog.

Each course is paired with a different brew from BrewDog’s eclectic portfolio. Gavin did the Burns stuff, vivace, @BrewDogJames described the beers, and anecdotes from BrewDog’s short but eventful history. ensuring at the same time he will never work for Sky, but that Andy Gray might have a second career in Fraserburgh, It wasn’t your usual Burns Night; I’ve never before come away from a Burns supper with plums all over my shoes.

Come to think of it, I’ve never come away from ANY supper with plums all over my shoes.

This is not a beer tasting…
Having established that beer tastings are ancient millinery, despite not many of the guests having actually been to one, we are introduced to the Burns Night Menu accompanied by beers, with just one dram making an appearance. From the James’ introdction: BrewDog-History-in-a-nutshell intro from James, nobody can be surprised. Except, surprise appears to be their main weapon, to coin a sketch.

The food itself contains a few departures from the standard Burns fare, but not too much as to be gimmicky. Every accompanying beer is chosen for a flavour profile that will match the dish, and every dish tweaked to match the characteristics of the beer.

Here is the menu for the BrewDog Burns Night Supper.

We make our introductions to our table companions for the evening, and it turns out that Gavin Mackay, sitting diagonally opposite me is our resident Scot and will MC (or should that be Mc?). He starts by explaining why it is that so many people around the world – Scots and non-Scots alike, celebrate a poet who wrote in a dialect of English that must be incomprehensible to most.

… And these are not tasting notes
The first beer arrives at the table: Punk IPA, BrewDog’s flagship beer. James strides forward, prowls ominously glass in hand; it contains no beer. It is a glass filled with something dry. This is not a beer tasting, remember, and we don’t do normal tasting notes. No! he explains what the beer is meant to taste of (which turns out to be the contents in the glass).Could we detect it? He then proceeds to chuck handfuls of the stuff around the room.

Apparently, the Punk IPA we are having tonight is the new Punk IPA. I notice James reach for more ammunition. I swear I can taste mangoes, and begin to wish I’d brought my cycling helmet.

Haggis Spring Roll and Punk IPA
Clearing the bits of candied grain and hop from our cuffs, we settle again for Gavin to read the Selkirk Grace, and we are away with the first course: Haggis spring roll with a sweet chili dipping sauce. Possibly fusion food taken a step too far, but you have to admit it’s fun.

The new Punk IPA, is still heavily hopped, but this has bagfuls of the variety Nelson Sauvin, which smell of tropical fruits. Ideal to pair with lightly-spiced oriental food. The deep, citrus-y bitterness cuts through the fat of the spring roll, and the sweetness of the malt gets into a tussle with the heat and the sweet of the chili sauce.

A great start to our evening. As an aside, this new Punk on the block would be brilliant with Thai food, instead of the, frankly, very ordinary but ubiquitous Singha. I quite fancy fish and chips with it, too.

Scottish Salmon Sashimi with Hello, my name is Ingrid
By no means is this non-beer tasting populated with seasoned BrewDog aficionados – or for that matter beer geeks, male or female. There are plenty of women guests, this no longer surprises me. Even if beer is stereotypically a man’s drink of choice, when it comes to modern beers, women are often more adventurous. What is perhaps surprising, some of them appear even not to be put off by comments, cleverly attributed by James to his co-founder, that would make Andy Gray blush.

None of the guests, as far as I know, is called Ingrid, but the accompanying beer to the second course is. To give it its full title “Hello, my name is Ingrid”. A mere whim, you might think, and you’d only be partly right. This is a beer conceived in Sweden by the winner of a competition run by the most popular English-speaking beer blog in Scandinavia: BeerSweden.

The Swedish market is very important to this nascent but ambitious brewery. The Swedish craft beer market is a sophisticated one, and has taken to BrewDog in a big way. To reward that recognition, BrewDog set up a special brew; a brew designed for the Swedes: an IPA with a Swedish twist – a double IPA at 8.2%  flavoured with cloudberries (hjortron in Swedish). And this was its British premiere, if not a World premiere. Enough to get this enthusiast in a lather. The competition run by BeerSwweden was to name the beer.

Smoked salmon is more usual for a Burns Night Supper, but continuing with an oriental theme, we have Sottish salmon sashimi, pickled cucumbers and soy sauce. The beer is extremely flavourful, although I can’t quite get the typical cloudberry signature of slightly musty raspberries. It is very bitter though, as well as containing sweetness from the fruit, and is a pretty reasonable success with the fatty salmon and earthy saltiness of the soy.

A few actual cloudberries on the plate might have made the dish, but I appreciate, obscure berries from the forests of Northern Sweden might be hard to come by even in the foodie heaven that is Parsons Green.

Coming up in Part 2
Cullen Skink with Bitch Please
Mini Haggis, no neeps but some tats (fake)

And some Tactical Nuclear Penguin…

If you want to see the photos that accompany this post, and the remaining courses, as yet un-annotated, go to:
Maltjerry’s BrewDog Burns Night flickr site.


Searching for a New Order at the Manchester Winter Ales Festival

There ought to be an extra factor in the equation that defines where in the calendar “Blue Monday” falls: the distance in miles you are you away from a winter beer festival. January is bad enough as it is, but what makes it worse for me is the envy I feel towards those lucky enough to live near a festival of winter beers. Finally, I’ve done something about the problem that January gives me every year: I’ve broken my winter beer festival duck at the National Winter Ales Festival in Manchester, the third stop on my journey Around the Year in Beer Festivals.

Winter was made for strong, dark beers; not the other way around. Only, it’s not always easy to find them. What you need is a festival. As my epiphany in Stockholm showed me, I think the point of a beer festival is to sample, to taste something new. The sampling aspect is near necessity if the majority of the beers you want to try are stronger than 5.5% ABV.

When I was planning my year’s tour of beer festivals, the UK’s National Winter Ales Festival (NWAF) filled a sizeable gap between Woking in November and Copenhagen in May. Winter and Christmas beers seem to be more part of the culture of countries in the rest of Northern Europe, so how would Manchester fare? Could it be part of the change to beer culture in the UK that I’m looking for? Are we embracing greater diversity in our beer styles?

Winter ales and more
There’s no doubt that the NWAF showcases winter ales, but it’s not exclusively the winter warmer style throughout. In fact, the beer list has a wide representation of ales that could conceivably turn up at any time of the year. I was disappointed by that at first, but the reality is, you could do all four sessions of the festival and not come anywhere near exhausting the winter stuff. Even If dark-and-strong’s not your thing, you could just stick to the impressive range of non-seasonal beers local to the North West of England.

And that’s just where I started, with Hawkshead Red. I’ve heard a lot about this brewery from the Lake District, and good though the Red was, with its malt-dominated flavour (you can guess the colour), it wasn’t what I’d come for. But the winter ales weren’t at the standard bars; if you wanted a beer entered in competition (for best winter ale), you had to go to the Competition Bar. Confused me at first, but the organisers got this right; it meant you only needed to visit one bar to satisfy your winter ale craving.

So, after a quick grand tour to scope the breweries arranged around the hall from A for “Amber Ales” to Y for “Yorkshire Dales”, the Competition Bar became irresistible. Brodie’s Prime is Hawkshead’s entry. It’s in the winter warmer style, medium bodied and fruity with a hint of roasted malt. Thankfully, the Mwnci Nell from Bragdy’r Nant, failed to live up to its printed tasting note of “fish”, but the Port O Call from Bank Top did indeed turn out to have a hint of port. Really quite Christmassy, without being over-spiced and gimmicky.

I’ve championed Thornbridge before and was drawn to the cask St. Petersburg imperial stout. A favourite of mine from 2010 in the bottle, what would the cask version offer? At 7.7%, it is satisfyingly warming, but it has the body and the roasted flavours to balance. Definitely one of those “what winter is made for” beers. As was Thwaites OBJ. Rich, fruity and sweet almost to the point of a barley wine, but without quite the strength. There aren’t many beers like this, and it’s good to see one of the traditional Northern breweries (they are from Blackburn) keeping up the interest alongside the micros.

A predictable demographic or are we missing a trick?
The festival is a success, no doubt. It’s hard to fault, and yet something is bothering me. It’s not the venue, which is pleasant enough and big enough for the occasion. It’s not the beers; the large range of interesting beers includes a “foreign” beer bar boasting beers in the winter styles of their respective countries.

There’s something very different about the NWAF compared to its summer equivalent, the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) held in August in London. And it only hits me when my festival companion introduces me to a friend, who opens by quoting Captain Beefheart. Of course, I get the  reference – Dave has set me up. And I’ve been thinking music references all day, all associated with Manchester: from Joy Division and New Order, to the Smiths and Oasis. Surely I could come up with a more modern Manchester band or musical icon. But I couldn’t, and it didn’t look like there were many other festival goers who could either.

Now, I suppose a Friday afternoon is not the best session to assess whether the younger population of Greater Manchester has completely deserted the dark side of the beer world. I just wonder if there is an image problem with dark beer. I’ve noticed a marked decrease in average age at the GBBF as well as a lurch towards blond and golden ales. Are the two perhaps related? If you look at the photo, there are some under 40s, but not many. Please, somebody who went to any of the evening sessions, set me straight, if you can.

In trying to make ales look more like (ordinary) lagers in order to entice a new generation, are brewers merely exchanging one style monoculture for another? Mild ales are already on the endangered species list, what needs to be done to stop winter ales joining them?

Given the opportunity, when people are introduced to the darker beers; whether from the forward-looking micros like Thornbridge (St. Petersburg) and Marble (Chocolate), or even some established bigger players like Fullers (London Porter), they often really like them. And my experience from the south of Argentina to the north of Sweden, is young people go for the dark stuff in a big way.

Obviously, we are at a festival that celebrates the diversity of beer styles, especially if you include the dunkels, the smoked trippels and bocks of the foreign beer list. The list of winter ale styles in competition shares the diversity, even if you might argue about defining styles:

  • Old Ales and Strong Milds
  • Porters
  • Stouts
  • Barley Wines

The existence of new micros, brewing such delights as the fantastic Superior Damson Stout from Liverpool’s Wapping, alongside Robinson’s promoting its established favourite Old Tom, is very pleasing. But I wish more UK breweries would be a bit more exciting with their winter beers; most are lagging behind the lead of the US, where craft breweries who boast a broad range of styles. Be braver! Sure, have a flagship beer, but promote the range, forget the bland marketing of promoting The Brand – it’s old hat. 

CAMRA organises the National Winter Ales Festival, and should take credit for it. I would certainly go again and take more friends. And even if I happened to attend The Antiques Roadshow session, I hope both CAMRA and the breweries build on the success by encouraging even more of a younger crowd to attend – It’s certainly a good antidote to Blue Monday.

Links and references:
The list of Winter Ales competition winners in all categories.
The (somewhat clunky) National Winter Ales website.
Blue Monday explained in Wikipedia.

Photo a Day 21.1.2011. The singer whose head exploded

Another accidental result. The singer in the Led Zep tribute band TwoSheds and I saw after the Winter Ales festival seems to have overheated. I wish I could think of an apt Zeppelin song I could pretend he was singing.

Old Pulteney samples for Twitter tasting

It is though, an odd set of aromas for a purely sherry-cask whisky. More port than sherry and a touch of the dreaded rubber. And then I add a few drops of water and go back to safe ground: the 17. I return to the WK209 to compare, and something has happened; the party balloon smell has gone and the real party has started. Christmas spices cloves and nutmeg, and mellow dried fruits like dates and raisins.

My Twitter ideas have dried too as I get lost in the whisky. Now I understand why this is a special edition! It’s as individual as the fishing boat it’s named after, but the catch is very rewarding if you can afford the time. As Malcolm tweets, this is a fireside dram for a night in. It draws you in and holds you in and rapt attention. Lovely, but it’s not on sale yet, and as it’s limited to 1,600 cases, it probably won’t appear in supermarket specials at Christmas. If you can’t find it, I suggest the 17 year-old.

The small amount of info that has been passed fit for pre-release says the WK209 is unchill-fitered, bottled at 46% ABV from European sherry casks. It is named after a steam Herring Drifter WK209 ‘Good Hope’ built in Wick in 1948, and follows a previous highly-successful limited-edition release named WK499 ‘Isabella Fortuna, which was a “travel retail offering”. Giving us a big clue to the availability of the WK209.

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Many thanks to Malcolm Waring at Old Pulteney for being a good sport and providing insights into his whisky and distilling.

Read about the history of the Old Pulteney distillery from their website
Follow Malcolm Waring, the Old Pulteney distillery manager on Twitter: @Malcolm_Waring

Special thanks also to Lucas from the Edinburgh Whisky blog for inviting me to take part in this Twasting.

Follow Lucas and Chris on their blog:
and on Twiter: @EdinburghWhisky





Better beer with your Indian food

A weissbier and a weizenbock with my paneer dosa. The key here is to find a BYOB restaurant. The beers are from The Euston Tap.
Don’t settle for just anything.

A Sassenach’s Guide to a Burns Night Supper (With many Whiskies)

We called it a Burns Night Supper, even if it was a couple of weeks early. If you think about it, in all those Christmas cookery specials we’ve just been bombarded with Delia, Rick, Nigella, Jamie and Hugh, they had their decorations up in June, so a fortnight ahead of time hardly seems like cheating. Maltjerry’s Burns Night Whisky Dinner, then.

I was trying to remember why I like Burns Night so much. Not because of any Celtic connection (my father was born in Newport, Wales). Is it the haggis? Because it can’t have always been the whisky. I have liked haggis as long as I can remember, but I can remember specifically my conversion to whisky. My Dad liked scotch, usually a blend: Bells, Teachers or Famous Grouse, and always drank it fifty-fifty with water. I couldn’t see the point of the stuff. And then I found Laphroaig.

How I became Maltjerry, The Beginning
I was out with a friend looking for a pub, probably jobless after graduation, surely not even aware that it was Burns Night until spying a chalkboard outside a pub in Battersea, we spotted a sign: “Burns Night: Laphroaig Malt Whisky, 2 for 1”. Well, you know what parsimonious recent graduates are like; that’s a free drink in anybody’s book. We went in. Never let anyone tell you that big, peated whiskies are not for beginners.

Nothing had prepared me for the smoky, medicinal and hugely-flavoured peat bomb we were offered. I knew about malt whisky because of the occasional Glenfiddich that came out at Christmas, but this was a different planet. How could it even be remotely related to Dad’s tipple? A switch had flipped in me. There must be something in this whisky thing after all. It’s partly down to the realisation – whisky is a very broad church, that I’m so keen to make new converts; I’m convinced there is a whisky for everyone. Burns Nights were never the same.

Now, I like Burns Night because of the whisky. Of course, I can drink whisky whenever I want, but Burns night offers a couple of opportunities that don’t present themselves very often. The traditional supper is one of the few times you get to drink whisky with a meal. More importantly, it is also one of the few times you get to legitimately have a go at persuading non-whisky lovers. I’m still pretty keen on the haggis, too.

A whisky dinner is born
Fast forward to the beginning of December, and dinner at friends. Conversation got around to this blog and my interest in whisky. Gill our host, was looking for a something of a treat for her father on his upcoming visit to the UK. Both originally from Scotland, the father with an interest in malts. She asked me if I’d do a tasting for them and a few friends in January.

Whisky tastings are a bit tricky to organise, and unless you already have a few different bottles, they can be an expensive way of finding out what you don’t like. I had just the solution: the Master of Malt samples.You might have read in one of the  ‘Tis the season to Buy Whisky posts that Master of sell 3 cl samples of whiskies. These are not just your average miniatures; these are very cute, wax-sealed sample bottles taken from some very interesting (and varied) whisky bottlings.

Gill’s Dad made the selection from the website: Eight Islay malts and a Talisker with four of those small sample bottles for each whisky selection. Plenty of whisky to share between eight Pre-Burns Night revellers. They’re pretty cute, aren’t they?

The Master of Malt whisky sample bottles

I learn most about whiskies when I sample more than one together, and I’ve found this holds true for people not used to drinking whisky. All well and good if you have plenty of glasses. At the very least, if you’ve got enough for two samples each, side-by-side, you’re away. I’ve amassed a veritable hoard, as MaltCim will no doubt attest to.

One further ingredient for an authentic Burns supper: at least one genuine Scot. It gives a certain gravitas to Burns’ Selkirk Grace to start the meal, and of course, the Address to the Haggis. If a member of the Scottish diaspora is not to hand, there’s always Google Translate. A German whisky friend told me he used Google translate to help him with his last Burns supper. The translation of with it’s “Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!” to German and back into English was rendered as “Fuhrer of the sausage people”.

We tasted – drank – the whiskies as part of the meal. It was a dinner with friends and family, after all, and not a tasting with converted enthusiasts. I interjected occasionally with snippets of info about what we were drinking, and most importantly, asked for opinions.

This is how it went:

Scottish smoked salmon with:

1                    Bruichladdich (distillery), Age: 15 year-old, Alchemist (bottling)

2                    Bruichladdich, 19 year-old, 1989 Black Art

Haggis, neeps and tatties with:

3                    Bowmore, 26 year-old, Master of Malt, Single Cask

4                    Bowmore, 7 year-old, 2002 Murray McDavid

Crannachan, which at some point involved:

5                    Laphroaig, 11 year-old, Duthies WM Cadenhead

6                    Laphroaig, 16 year-old, 1992 Old Malt Cask Douglas Laing

7                    Laphroaig, 19 year-old, 1990 Cask Strength 89 Collection Signatory

Cheese and:

8                    Bunnahabhain, 12, 1997 Signatory Heavily Peated Casks 5342 & 5484 – Cask Strength Collection

The verdict
The 15 year-old Bruichladdich beat its older, paler sister and neither was peaty.  Not surprisingly, the 26 year-old Bowmore received greater praise than the 7 year-old: lots of perfumed smoke, but elegant and not overpowering. Tasting the Laphroaigs together was “instructive”, even for those not so keen as your convert blogger. I think the 19 year-old Signatory bottling got as many votes as the 16 year-old Old Malt Cask. The briny, medicinal Bunnahabhain in this heavily peated version, I thought was a revelation.

Even if we didn’t have the benefit of cameras for recording the events for broadcast on the real Burns Night, I hope you have enough encouragement to do something similar.

Here are the resources:

Islay whisky tasting set from

Burns Night info, including Selkirk Grace and Address to the Haggis, with Scots translations on Wikipedia.

Whisky tasting glasses from the Whisky Exchange.

Smoked salmon, haggis, neeps and tatties all available from Waitrose.
They’re veggie haggis is also very good, if a little oxymoronic.

For those outside Scotland, where you recruit a member of the Scots diaspora, I can’t help you with.

You say you want a revolution… in beer culture

So sang John Lennon on the White Album in 1968 (almost). Now I hear calls for a revolution in beer culture in the UK from, among others, the refreshingly upstart-headed Scottish brewery BrewDog. Well, you know, we all want to change the beer world. Revolution, rather like overnight success, can be a long time coming.

At the turn of the millennium, I longed for change on the UK beer scene. I’d fallen in love with the variety of beers from the US I’d found in Sweden. These were “craft beers” from new, small, independent breweries. In Britain, we called them microbreweries, and although we had plenty of them, the variety in style of their beers was lacking; it seemed like living in a monoculture. Change seemed unlikely.

Of course, I was not the only one to think this way, and now, with a much more lively beer scene in the UK some people think we are close to critical mass to make a lasting change. All I’ve done to bring about any change is to buy unsuspecting friends beers they didn’t think they wanted. The guys from BrewDog actually started a brewery on the American craft brewery model. The craft beer scene in Sweden is such that BrewDog sell more beer there than in the UK*. Even there, though, it used to be extremely hard to get a decent .567 of a litre. Has there been a revolution?

In February 2006, I found myself in a fairly smart bar/restaurant in Malmö, Sweden. They had an impressive list of beers. That they had a list of the beers impressed me. I chose a Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter. Largely because I wanted to say out loud to the waitress, “I would like a Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter,” and wait for the reaction. She didn’t even flinch.

Turning the clock back to 1991 and my first time in Sweden took me to Stockholm. I made the mistake of buying a round in the very smart Cafe Opera bar. I don’t even remember the beer, and probably the only thing worth remembering was that half my weekend spending money disappeared in the process. Then, apart from the occasional splurge, the whole point in going out for a drink was to find the cheapest beer in town.

In the intervening 15 years, Sweden joined the EU, relaxed its laws on maximum beer strength, started some microbreweries, created a beer festival unlike anything else in Europe. And stole unashamedly from the beer cultures of the UK and the US.

Today, in 2011, you can go to any of the monopoly off-licences and find shelves of American, British, and Swedish craft-brewed beers (for a kick-off). There is a chain of pubs – The Bishops Arms, each of which picks a selection of draught and bottled beers that that would keep any beer geek happy for months. Not to mention the whisky lover.

Twenty years. Hardly a revolution. And It’s not like everybody now drinks US cult beer classic Stone Ruination and ultra-whisky Ardbeg Supernova. The biggest selling beer in Sweden is still a mass-produced light lager. The best-selling spirit is still an industrial vodka. The biggest new Swedish alcohol export to the UK is a range of flavoured ciders whose connection to apples and pears has probably more to do with cockney rhyming slang than actual fruit.

But something went terribly right; take a look at the selection of American beers listed in the Systembolaget (monopoly off-licence) site:
Systembolaget search results, USA beer These beers are available throughout the country. I think it happened through Evolution, rather than Revolution.

Maybe Britain can learn from the Swedish experience? What can we do to speed the process up so it won’t be 15 years before you can buy beers from the likes of Lovibonds, or Kernel, or Hardknott (the new wave of British brewing) in pubs in Kenilworth, or Weston Super Mare, or Sainsburys? We have some great new bars (see Links). What else can we do?

BrewDog say they want to rescue us from the mass-produced fizzy stuff. Great, I say, but I think we should also be aiming for people who already have a discerning palate. It worked for Sweden.


BrewDog manifesto: Blog: Roll on 2011
I bet you’d like a local like Akkurat in Stockholm. Here’s their beer page.

Here are some of the UK’s finest bars/pubs in the “new” craft beer style:
Leeds North Bar and Further North Bar
Sheffield: The Sheffield Tap and friends
London: The Rake, The Euston Tap, Brew Wharf, The Old Brewery Greenwich.

*Definitely per capita. Absolute figures not to hand.

Another year in the drink?

“… and for his Posterous blog, the Runner-up award for Best Online Communication goes to Maltjerry, otherwise known as Jerry Bartlett”. Pete Brown said these words. Not just any-old Pete Brown either. This one was the head judge in the Beer Writer of the Year competition for the  British Guild of Beer Writers, and outgoing Beer Writer of the Year 2009-10.

It was quite easily my favourite combinations of words spoken or written in the whole of 2010 – and Pete has had some really interesting things to say, this year. Not that I won the highest prize, but to come from nowhere to this recognition for my blog made me very happy. Allow me this small moment of indulgence, and I promise I won’t be Beer Witterer of 2011.

Lists of beers and whiskies of the year don’t hold the same fascination for me as lists of best films or CDs, so instead, here are some of my event highlights of 2010.

The Euston Tap opened in London (just outside Euston Station). This was the latest in a growing number of outlets dedicated to craft beers of different styles – not just traditional cask ales. I wrote when it opened that it represented a step forward for beer culture in the UK, because of the possible exposure to a non-beer-geek audience. I still think that is right, but it has a fair way to go to catch up with the excellent Rake Bar at Borough Market, or indeed the Bishops Arms chain in Sweden. Admittedly, it is not as bedded in.

I was at The Euston Tap on the afternoon the Arsenal vs. Blackpool match fell victim to the snow. The handful of football-deprived Arsenal fans, was just that – a handful for the the understaffed session. How would you answer requests for “a lager” when you have on offer of the finest examples of the style known to beerkind? But this presents an opportunity, which is exactly why the Euston Tap is such an important place for improving our beer culture (!) for the better.

The most satisfying beer moment for me occurred at Borough Market, but not at the Rake, but Brew Wharf, where I took a gang of my former Antarctic travelling companions. This pub and restaurant in the modern craft beer style, where the menu suggests a beer match for every item on the menu; yes, even desserts. Matching different beer styles to different foods really does engage the interest of people who might otherwise drink wine with a meal. Susanne, the 19 year-old daughter of Aussie friends provided me with my beer moment for 2010 by saying, “I had no idea that beer could be so flavourful or varied.” I will spend more time on the subject of beer with food in the coming year.

The Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival in September was probably the best yet. I was a jury member in the whisky competition for the 15th year, tasting a taste-bud-challenging number of whiskies – over 300, a number I hope will be reduced significantly next time out. We still had enough taste to pick a cracking bunch of winners. The festival itself was a triumph for Swedish microbreweries; their room was packed to the rafters almost every session.

Edinburgh provided my other whisky highlight. I was there with friends who share a love of the music of 70s progressive rock legends Gentle Giant. I took along a bottle of Talisker 1993 Distillers Edition to share in the hospitality suite. A total delight for me to be able to turn a fair few people on to the delights of malt whisky, including drummer John “Pugwash” Weathers. On our tour of Tullibardine distillery, it was Mr Weathers who thought his way through to the origins of the Irish word for moonshine: poteen.  

I’ll leave the post for what to expect in 2011 to another day. Meanwhile, here’s some links for you.

Pete Brown writes about Stella Black. This rant about a new beer from the makers of Stella Artois still makes me laugh.
The Rake Bar blog
The Beer Sweden blog has dinner with Garret Oliver, the foremost expert in matching beer with food.