Beer in a Can: Future Days or Soon Over (Babaluma)?

Excuse me for confusing beer and Krautrock, but the beer world is embracing the can to an extent not seen since the heyday of the German rock band Can. There was a time when at least the perception of any right-drinking beer lover was that the can was an indicator of an inferior product. Filtered and pasteurised, tainted by the metal.

In the 70s, cult favourites Can, progenitors of so-called Krautrock, whose album titles I borrowed for my headline, seemed to me and my little brother, the height of freaky rock. We were a little too young to know, perhaps. We were also a little too young for beer. Not too young, however, to notice that beer culture, like music culture was changing. Beer in a can, on the other hand, was normal.

Can albums and FourPure beer can stack with MaltJerry

MaltJerry stands in front of a Fourpure Brewery stack of Pils cans and underneath the sleeve pics for two classic Can albums

From our viewpoint, now, in the actual future, the 70s look retro hip. Everybody drank their beer from dimpled pint glasses and my dad had a hipster moustache. Even in bleak, three-day week Britain, brewers thought cans were so good they put seven pints in them and called it a party. Bottles seemed as old hat as flat caps. Are times changing?

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Duvel Tripel Hop 2015: a Beer for an Equinox and a Solar Eclipse

March 20: The EquiCox. The time of the year when everyone on the planet has the same amount of daylight until the next TV show involving Professor Brian Cox. It is also the eve of the Vernal Equinox* and coincidentally, the first total solar eclipse of 2015. It is no coincidence that this is the day chosen for the UK launch of Duvel Tripel Hop 2015, a special, limited edition beer.

Duvel Tripel Hop 2015 Equinox

Duvel Tripel Hop 2015 Equinox, Eclipse and EquiCox


The Day of the EquiCox

The Day of the EquiCox. Professor Brian Cox eclipses the sun

You do wonder if a limited edition beer can ever really be launched. I wonder, anyway, because by the time a special, limited edition beer is written about, it will be just as special but even more limited. But hey, if you get invited to a launch, well, you’re not going to turn it down over a point of semantics, are you?

The Tripel Hop version of this classic, Belgian, golden ale Duvel, has made an annual appearance since 2007, which was two years after physicist Brian Cox first appeared on our TV screens and eight years after the last solar eclipse visible from the UK. I went to the Three Johns pub in Islington for launch night***. Continue reading

The rumour BrewDog’s IPA is Dead is dead, is dead

So, farewell then, IPA is Dead, they* said.
But you were not dead.
That rumour is scotched,
Like some other BrewDog beers.
(But not Alice Porter.)

Single hop varietals is the spice of life.
That was your catchphrase.
Still is.

– EJ Kribb (17.5% ABV)
With apologies to Private Eye (again).

IPA is Dead 2014 four-pack carrier

IPA is Dead 2014 box set

* “They” being MaltJerry, in all fairness. Continue reading

Finding a whisky good enough to celebrate 10 years

13th Dec. Maltjerry's Advent Calendar: Transported to a Swedish Summer forest.

Looking for a special whisky

Today, 8 Dec, is a special day. I celebrate it every year;  the anniversary of my brother-in-law donating a kidney to his sister, Cim, my wife. Part of the celebration is sending a bottle of whisky to Jonas. It’s a token of thanks and acknowledgement but cannot really express the depth of gratitude we both feel for how much of a difference that act of heroism has made to our lives. Going to Antarctica? Not even thinkable.

This year is ten years, and being a round number, I feel that this year’s whisky should be extra special in some way. On the 5th anniversary, I bought the Highland Park Hjärta, a limited edition whisky whose name (heart) spoke to the issue. Getting it to Jonas in the north of Sweden was a bit of an odyssey. How could I top that? Should I even try?

Another Highland Park might fit the bill, and there are some very fine, very expensive whiskies, some of which are even harder get hold of than the Hjärta. Perhaps one from the range named after Norse gods and warriors. I haven’t tasted many of them and it’s important to me that it’s something I know he (and I) will really like. Too risky? Continue reading

Saison: from Belgian Farmhouse to London Fields Eastside

At the risk – or perhaps hope – of achieving notoriety in Private Eye’s Neophiliacs column, I declare that saison is the new black IPA. I am not saying that to knock it or anyone who brews saison. I love the stuff. Which was why I was delighted to be invited to London Fields Brewery for the launch of the latest in their Bootlegger Series: Eastside Saison.

Eastside Saison signage London Fields Brewery

Eastside Saison. It’s from Lond Fields’ east side.

Over the past year or so, “saison” beers have exploded their presence like overprimed bottles of homebrew. Craft brewers have been cranking up their imaginations to produce a new variants of a beer style with its origins in the Belgian farmhouse of bygone eras. And why shouldn’t modern brewers be creative? When it comes to style, saison is the bebop of beer: based on a few sketchy ideas, the whole comes together with some firecracking improvisation.

Which is a roundabout way of saying there is nothing fixed about a saison: it is a moveable feast*. Nobody can be certain what those ancient farmhouse beers tasted like. Brewed in winter for slaking the thirsts of summer farm labourers, each farm brewing their own one-off batch. As craft as you like, it’s no wonder so many brewers want to try their hand.  I was very keen to taste the London Fields interpretation. Continue reading

A taste of Autumn: Catch 23, one crazier

From: Central Coast Brewing, USA, California, San Luis Obispo.
Style: Dark Rye IPA. 7.5% ABV, 77 IBU
Source: Ales By Mail
Tues 26 Aug. Kid brother flips a significant digit

Central Coast Brewing Catch 23

Don’t fear the end of summer. Autumn heralds dark rye ales.

I don’t know what Autumn is like in San Luis Obispo, California, but I’m guessing it’s warmer than a rainy August bank holiday in England. Or indeed a sunny one. No matter, because my latest choice from the Ales By Mail US Beer Club box reminds me of Autumn and imminent arrival of the richest, tastiest, best food of the year.

The natty can doesn’t let on what style Catch 23 is, it just says “”Excessively hopped high gravity ale. Rye & roasted malts”. I say, to start with, it’s ebony/black with a espresso crema head, once it’s calmed down. The aroma is all pecan pie: roasted nut and caramel with some piny/citrus hops trying to get through.

Trouble is, once you’ve tasted it, trying to define the aroma is tricky. The flavours in the mouth linger and dominate, diminishing my olfactory capability, captain. Not like that’s a bad thing. Roast and pine. Not burnt roast, but a just-turned chestnut and toffee apple. Sound like Autumn to you?

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Is BrewDog IPA is Dead dead?

BrewDog is back with Edition 4 of IPA is Dead; a new batch of very much undead IPAs; the fourth year of this occasional series. Are they run out of hops yet? Is this it?

Four bottles, the same base 7.2% ABV IPA, a different hop variety in each, so we get to see what each brings to the party. Another take on Taste the Difference.

BrewDog IPA is Dead 4 2014

From Experimental to familiar Amarillo: IPA is Dead hops

Edition 4 consists of the unfamiliar (to me): Comet, Kohatu, Exp 366, and if you thought that was all sounding a little X-Files, the new four-pack is rounded off with a more familiar friend: Amarillo. Will any be as good as Edition 3’s gorgeous Goldings or as diabolical as Dana? (which tasted like an IPA that had actually died)? Let’s see…

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Swift half: Siren Soundwave IPA – An American in Berkshire

From: Siren Craft Brewing, Berkshire, UK. Style: American West Coast IPA, 5.6% ABV
Source: Bottle from

Siren Craft Soundwave IPA

Siren Soundwave IPA: agressive lemon meringue pie?

Falling for the Siren call for me was instant. It was the Limoncello IPA and the Big Inflatable Cowboy Hat thing. Although that was a while ago. Soundwave is one of their more on-topic names and is part of their core range.

Siren Craft Brewing was voted second-best new brewery for 2013 in beer rating site Ratebeer. Now, whatever you think of that particular site (and I have my doubts, fully aware I’m writing tasting notes), it’s a pretty cool accolade.
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No reviews, no predicitions, just…

Who was it that said “I don’t do predictions and I never will”? It was me, one or two years ago, quoting Gazza or David Coleman or Charlie Brooker, or some such hero.

Inevitably, as well as most of the rest of you, I find my train of thought pulling in at Resolution Central again. Thankfully, the alarm klaxon sounds: avoid review of the past year, avoid promises and predictions for the coming year.

MaltJerry, self-regarding

MaltJerry, self-regarding

Yet, at this arbitrary turning point* in the orbit of our blue-green planet about an ordinary star in an insignificant part of one of trillions of galaxies, we think, despite all evidence to the contrary, that what we say tonight will make a difference. We still aim to change the drift of our own histories.

I take a sip of beer. Meantime India Pale Ale. It’s suitably celebratory-looking in the bottle with its wire-caged Champagne-style cork. I have an equally celebratory Fuller’s Vintage 2013 waiting to ring the new year in, as well as a Cava cork to pop and an Ardbeg Alligator to first-foot with. Deep breath…

I feel though, to use the Baltimore street-language of TV drama The Wire, it’s time to change up. I wrote a post on “Why I write”, as if to justify to myself the effort I expend on a blog about beer, whisky, food, and (vanishingly) music. The only sensible way to follow that up is to ask “Why would anybody read?” This gives me the impetus to “change up”.

I’m tired of reading what is and what isn’t “OK” to write or feel about the beer and whisky worlds. It’s all too self-regarding and too niche. It’s not about writing for a bigger slice of the choir. It’s about getting more singers. I want to be read by beer and whisky drinkers who don’t read about beer and whisky. Then again, how many of the drinks I wrote about in paragraph 4 did you know about? (I won’t hold it against you, just try them.)

Two lyrical quotes for me to take into 2014, one question and one statement: “What difference does it make?” (Morrissey). “Something better change” (The Stranglers).

Nevertheless, Happy New Year!

*What’s the turning point in an orbit, an elipse? Perihelion? Yeah, I know we’re past that.


Mackmyra Svensk Rök: A Swedish dram to banish November

The best thing about dreary November weather is how well it works with a drop of in-yer-face whisky. Specifically, Talisker. Not a fancy Talisker bottling but the standard edition, common or peat bog 10-year-old. Its bracing forthrightness gives me strength to face the drizzle and biting wind. Other whiskies are available.
Mackmyra Svensk Rök

Swedish distillery Mackmyra present their first readily available smoke-forward malt whisky

Swedish distillers Mackmyra have two whiskies that must have been designed with the onset of winter. One is called, Midvinter, and one Svensk Rök. I’ll leave you to pat yourself on the head for knowing what the first means, but the second is  “Swedish Smoke”, which is the subject here. Extra points for guessing that “rök” has a close friend in the Scots “reek” (and German Rauch, for that matter).

Mackmyra have always done peated whiskies. Smoke is one of their two basic recipes; the unpeated is called Elegant. Svensk Rök is the first commercially-available bottling that is made to be smoke-dominant. They must have spent hours thinking up the name. Private cask owners have always been able to choose the smoke. In fact, I part-own a cask called “Smoky Baby”. You can bet I was keen to compare.

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