Where to go after Badger Ales’ “Beginners’ Guide to Malt Jerry”

I’ve got a bit of explaining to do…

If you’ve reached here because you’ve saw “Beginners’ Guide to Malt Jerry” on the Badger Sett Ale Club Blog, then thank you, and welcome!

For other readers, in case you’re wondering why on earth I’m rabbiting on about Badgers, I should say that the nice people at Hall and Woodhouse, Dorset family brewers of said Badger Ales, have asked me to be Guest Blogger for June, and they thought it was a good idea to get me to answer one of those profile questionnaires as a kind of intro. I’m honoured to be included in the same list as established beer writers Adrian Tierney-Jones and Zak Avery.

So “about” Malt Jerry, then? Yes, as you can see, I blog about whisky too. I chose the name years ago, half jokingly for Hotmail, and then it became my Twitter moniker, and that’s kind of how it goes with Twitter IDs: they stick.


How come then, this blog is called The Nightjar and not MaltJerry? The clue is in the answer to Question 16: the name for my perfect pub, to which I gave the answer The Nightjar – a slight pun to give the impression of drinking fine ale with Chris Packham and Kate Humble after a hard day’s birdwatching. However, the likelihood of my owning a pub is comparable to that of beer brand giant InBev doing something supportive of craft beer, so I thought I’d use the name for a non-specialist blog, even if it has turned out to be mostly malt beverage-related. 

The purpose of The Nightjar blog is to promote good beer of all descriptions, beer culture – especially in relation to food, and whisky. I’d love for us in the UK to know and care about whisky as much as they do in Scandinavia, (I visit Sweden and Denmark quite often). You will also find the odd post about music, but so far, nothing about birds.

Upcoming posts include Part 2 (or is it Part 4?) of the Copenhagen Beer Festival, which forms part of my European tour of beer festivals since Stockholm last September. I’ve yet to post about my short visit to Welsh whisky distillery Penderyn. I’m hoping to visit Adnams Brewery and distillery in July and a spontaneous trip to the Cantillon brewery in Brussels.

The Festival Tour will of course include the Great British Beer Festival in August, followed by the annual pilgrimage to the brilliant Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival, for what will be its 20th anniversary, and my 16th year as a judge in the whisky competition. And if anybody can figure out a way of getting to the Great American Beer Festival while still earning a living, please let me know.
And Badger people, in case you’re wondering about the absence of an answer to Question 14: Peregrine Falcon.


Whisky’s not just for Christmas: Father’s Day Gift Ideas

I imagine whisky is not foremost in peoples’ minds as a summer drink, so perhaps it’s a good job for the whisky industry that Father’s Day comes when it does, as whisky makes a brilliant present (except if your old man doesn’t like it, obviously).

I like getting whisky as a present, but I know people who are a bit afraid of buying it for me because they think their choice will either be beneath me, or I will already have it. Well, tosh to that, I say! You can’t have too much whisky, and as my Dad used to say, “It won’t eat no meat”. Or perhaps that was my Mum’s saying.

Leading up to Christmas last year I wrote a four posts called ‘Tis the Season to Buy Whisky about whisky bargains to be had at what is the busies time of year for selling whisky. I’ll reprise the format of the ‘Tis the Season… but, as there is not much time, I’ll keep it brief and start with online.

The Royal Mile Whiskies website has some inventive ways of presenting their whiskies: by an array of price ranges, birthdays and anniversaries, for example, and of course, Gift Packs. Some of the gift suggestions are really just a multi-pack of miniatures, but the Nikka one stands out: five 4cl bottles of that excellent Japanese whisky producer. You get one with Nikka From The Barrel, one with Nikka All Malt, and Three with Nikka Pure Malt, all for a nori leaf under 25 quid. They come in cool-looking tubes to keep when the whisky’s gone, and to re-use in your hand luggage to get whisky through airport security. Or something.

At the other end of the scale (£120) the Scotch Whisky Aroma Nosing Kit. Fascinating though it is, it doesn’t contain any actual whisky, rather a box with 24 small vials to educate you in the “key aromas” found in whisky. You get a guidebook too. Club together with your siblings.

The Whisky Tasting Club is an online subscription club that sends out five double-measures of different whiskies designed to be a self-contained whisky tasting. Like try-before-you-splash-out-on-five-whole-bottles. This is a similar to, but a step on, from the Master of Malt idea I wrote about at Christmas. You don’t have to “join”; they have gift packs: Tastings for Immediate Delivery, including a Father’s Day one with five great malts for £20. Or you could go the whole hog(shead) and get the annual package (4 regular tastings for £100, 6 for £150, or 12 for £300. The full-on club experience comes with the  Regular Tastings package, which gets him bonus trial samples and a free book. As a member, he’d be able to write up his tastingn notes on their blog.

Master of Malt has a Father’s Day gift page, which includes a Father’s Day Tasting Set. It’s a lucky dip of five 3cl to-be-decided samples, for a nose away from £30. They do assure us, though, they’re going to all top-notch. I don’t doubt it. The perhaps aptly named Old and Rare Set might appeal to your Dad’s sense of humour but at £166.45 I’d want to know what I was giving him. No lucky dip here; all five look very interesting indeed, including a Glenfarclas 1952 family cask sample and a Miyagikyou 1988.

As a different touch, there is a bottle of pre-mixed Manhattan cocktail: “created using straight rye whiskey, a blend of fine vermouths, and top notch bitters”.  My favourite cocktail – it would be nice to try this and find out how a real expert thinks it should be made; no compromising ingredients, here.

To finish, a quick supermarket bargain round-up and book selection.

The Co-op has a third off deal on selected whiskies, including the Glenmorangie 10 year-old at £22.36, and the Glenlivet 12, but the latter is almost almost a quid cheaper at Waitrose, who have the Glenlivet 18 yo £10 off at £28.65 – that’s some great whisky at that price.

Sainsbury‘s website is much easier to find your way around, I think, and they have more whisky offers. including the Dalwhinnie 15 at a third off: £20.79.

Asda have some offers, the best of which is the underrated Aberlour 10 year old for £16. Another idea – it’s not on offer – but Monkey Shoulder at a nudge over £20 is a little bit different. It’s a “blended malt” – a marriage of malt whiskies from different distilleries. Its recent accolades include shortlisting in its category at the World Whisky Awards 2011.

But nobody wants to be a cheapskate on Father’s Day, so if your budget runs to it, spend what you save at the supermarket on Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2011 on Amazon. You might decide after all, you wanted to buy the whisky Jim picked out as best of the year: Ballantine’s 17 year old blended whisky.

Still on Amazon, if you’re looking for a bigger present book, then Whisky Magazine editor, and head bloke at The Whisky Tasting Club, Dominic Roskrow has a lovely book about the best whiskies from around the world. He was obviously up all night thinking of a title: World’s Best Whiskies 750 Unmissable Drams from Tennessee to Tokyo . No matter because it should be in any whisky aficionado’s collection, especially as it’s £17.34.

If whisky is not your Dad’s thing, have a look at my post Some Beer Gift Ideas For Father’s Day.

Some beer gift ideas for Father’s Day

I’m pretty sure I never gave my Dad a tie on Father’s Day (Fathers’ Day?). But I’m also quite certain I never gave him beer. I’m sure he would not have turned his nose up at a few bottles of Directors or London Pride, but that’s not really the kind of gift where you can honestly say that it’s the thought that counts. So I usually bought whisky. These days, it might be a different matter; the Internet offers some fine opportunities for putting thought into a beery gift.

Online beer shopping is a lot more interesting than grabbing a few bottles off the shelf of Waitrose. There’s quite a lot of beer-associated goodies and special bottlings available online making it a lot easier to buy something a bit different. Helpfully, a few online beer shops have “specially-prepared” Fathers Day gift packs, and some of them are really quite good.

Ales By Mail have a range of about 12 different gift packs to suit various budgets. I’d be very pleased to get The Meantime Gift Pack at £22.99, containing as it does a “champagne-sized” bottle of each of the Meantime London Porter and the Meantime IPA.

Or if like MaltCim, you think there might be a surfeit of beer glasses in the house, you could let your imagination run wild in the Pick-and-Mix range and make your own case from an impressive selection of 216 beers. Or, to narrow it down, perhaps you could suggest a bit of flattery by association and give him a selection of Rogues – You’re not likely to see those down Morrisons. On the other hand, you might think some of the fabulous Hardknott beers might be more appropriate.

Beer Merchants online also has a brilliant choice of non-supermarket fare. It’s great for Belgian specialities, but I’d go for something from the Mixed Case page rather than the Gift Packs, which look a bit Easter egg-y, if you’ll allow the metaphor. The mixed cases are not all Belgian but you’ll find some imaginative mash-ups from that part of the World. If a bit of Trappistry is not his thing, then how about a Lawnmower Case? Yep, you read it right: 30 “crisp, clean and refreshing” summery beers for the old chap to reward himself with after a long afternoon in the garden. The likes of Erdinger, Saison 1900, Sierra Nevada, included. Not to be taken at one sitting mind. All for £30 plus delivery. Beer Merchants will also lead you to the fab beers from Founders and Kernel.

Of course, it’s not uncommon for breweries have their own web shops. One of the best established is the Fullers Online Shop, at which, as well as beer and glasses, you’ll find some Dad-orientated beer accessory stuff: including all kind of golf and rugby gear. That maybe tells you something of the demographic they’re aiming at, who knows. I’d much prefer something from the Speciality Beers range: a selection of different years of Vintage Ales, perhaps (the “Hey, you’re not old you’re vintage”, idea.)  A case of one of the Past Masters releases would I’m sure be most welcomed, but depending on your relationship, might not be taken as kindly…

Lastly, a website that is a bit of a mixture of the general online beer shop and the online brewery shop: My Brewery Tap. The concept here, as the name might suggest, is to give UK breweries an opportunity to ply their wares without all the hassle of setting up and running a web shop of their own. It’s also great for imported beers, especially from the US; it’s not a huge range, but it is almost perfectly formed. Delivery is a reasonable £5.99 but remember, if you’re not buying a mixed brewery case, this is for the first case on a per brewery basis, as the beer is shipped from each brewery.

The Mixed Case page offers two UK mixed brewery cases (with optional t-shirt, and one US mixed brewery case with 15 great US craft beers, including Brooklyn, Goose Island and Odell, for the unlikely sum of £34.99. That’s 10 quid off! There’s also the Box of Chocolates mixed case of various breweries’ takes on the chocolate beer theme: Marble, Meantime, Saltaire, and more. At first blush, you might not think this is the case to buy coming up to Summer, but these will be great with cake and vanilla ice cream. Then there are five pages of individual brewery mixed cases: a great way to sample a brewery that’s hard to get hold of otherwise (Mallinson, Dark Star, Marble…). There is a nice rolling banner to give you ideas and save the RSI. 

There you have it: four different online shops and three different apostrophications of the day itself. So, get cracking, to allow time for delivery! I’ll be back with some whisk(e)y ideas.

You think he’d rather have a dram? Try the post “Whisky’s not just for Christmas…

Copenhagen Beer Festival 2011: Micros and More in the Giant’s Den

“So, the festival glasses?” I asked. “Are they just behind that stack of whisky tumblers? What do you mean those are the festival glasses?” A voice in my head pipes up. It is late great jazz club owner Ronnie Scott intoning “You’re not here to enjoy yourselves!” It dissipates, the krone dropped; we are here to sample. It was 2009 and my intro to the Copenhagen Beer Festival had me smitten. I knew I would be back. Hope they still have poletts.

Jump-cut to May 2011, a changed flight, altered venue, and here I was again: Copengagen, the third stop on my journey Around theYear in Beer Festivals. The venue is Tap 1 Exhibition Hall at (sharp intake of breath) the Carlsberg Brewery?! Shurely shome mishtake, as Lord Gnome of Private Eye magazine might have it. Is this not some kind of sell-out? No! This must be one of the least sold-out beer festivals there is. Apart from in the sense of ticket sales. 


The festival sample glass and holder with the festival programme.

It does make some kind of sense holding a beer enthusiasts’ festival at the home of a giant industrial brewer. At least Carlsberg has their own micro: Jacobsen, with their own stand at the festival. They make some varied and pretty tasty beers. And it’s variety that makes the Copenhagen festival.  The festival organisers are the Danske Ølentusiaster (Danish Beer Enthusiasts) Association; by enthusiasts for enthusiasts.  In its own way, Carlsberg has its place in spreading the word of the craft beer revolution.

If we are not exactly rejoicing to see the biggest brewery is here, then it is thrilling to see some of the two-man, five-barrel operations – not to forget the breweries where women take a central role, such as at Wintercoat, where Disa Fink with her husband Nils Thomsen comprise the workforce at this English-inspired brewery near Aarhus. Some might look down their pint glasses at handpumps dispensing non-cask ale, but they did have two genuine cask-conditioned beers: the Cockney Imperial Stout at 8% ABV and the Wintercoat Old Ale. Both were great, and the Old Ale, even if the programme notes said it wasn’t fully matured, already tasted delicious.

There was at least one other old ale to be had, also in cask form: Gales Prize Old Ale, imported by the One Pint specialist importers of British, Belgian, US, German, Czech and that other legendary brewing nation, India. Even though we are here to celebrate and sample Danish craft beer, it’s hard to resist the Prize Old Ale, so hard to find in the UK. It was the best I’ve tried: a complex meld of sweet, bitter and sour, satisfying and refreshing. Well worth a polett.

A what, sorry? You said that before? A polett (or possibly polet) is a token in Danish, and you get ten as part of the price of entry (200 kr) along with your sample glass. The deal is, you swap a token for a sample, which is usually 10 cl, but there is a line for 5 cl for very strong beers. It’s a very sensible system – I’ve seen similar at some CAMRA festivals – it saves all that rummaging around for change while juggling your glass and festival programme.

You might think 10 krone (about £1.20) for 10 cl of beer is steep, but the Danish craft beer scene is inspired by the US, so there are some big beers. The likes of Amager, Croocked Moon (sic), Hornbeer, NØrrebro, Kissmeyer, and of course, Mikkeller parade their 8.5% Rye Porters, their Extreme Imperial IPAs at 9%, and their Black Hole Barrel Aged Imperial Stout series – at gone 13%.

And on the more usual side of the ABV tracks, you get American-style style variety: dry-single-hopped Bitters, Doppelbocks, Red Rye IPAs, Coffee Porters, Saisons, Bieres de Garde, as well as IPAs sporting the new hops on the block from the Pacific, such as Citra and Nelson Sauvin.

Even if the website’s list of “exhibitors” is a couple of scrolls long, it still feels like a manageable festival; the enthusiasts know what enthusiasts want. The feel is like a local festival. There are plenty of guests from foreign climes too; it is more than local beer for local people. The Dogs are here: BrewDog and Flying Dog, there’s Italian beer brewed to rival wine for its food matching capabilities, and some Swedish micros – after all, Sweden is a short train journey across the Öresund bridge.

Of course it would be impossible to try everything you came for, even by sharing 10 cl samples. So the sensible thing is to come along more than once. In fact, why don’t you come back for Part 2, for more on those foreigners, pump-action shotgun, smuggled contraband, how to avoid Mikkeller and nearly not get home.

Copenhagen Beer Festival website
(in English) with Exhibitors list (Danish)
Wintercoat Bryggeriet (English)
One Pint Importers range of imported bottled beers

Previously on Around the Year in Beer Festivals…