You might have noticed that I’ve been rather (read: completely) quiet on here for a while. This is due to a combination of buying a new house, which has made me both poor and very busy, and breaking my phone, which has lost a number of my reviews and all my pictures/videos from Aberdeen and elsewhere. I’m hopeful that normal service will resume soon, but until then, cheers!
Four days later and I suppose I’ve just about recovered from the hangover – Aberdeen once again delivers a fantastic weekend’s entertainment, and thanks to some more careful drinking and a more generous flight plan, I got to see more of the city too.
I’ve decided to split my review into two, looking first at the Brewdog AGM which took place on Saturday in the day, before considering Aberdeen’s fine selection of other bars in my next post.
Brewdog AGM was much better organised this year; none of the #queuedog fiasco of last year, with six bars instead of two and a much broader range of beers. I don’t think I ever waited more than three minutes to get served, compared to the 20 minutes last year. The selection was better and the food was again quality – if still enormously overpriced – so we were well sated on that front. The music was great too – Idlewild were very good and Twin Atlantic killed it, not bad for a corporate shin dig.
I have to admit I’m starting to get a bit wary of the Brewdog brand now – these guys are absolutely raking it in – the company is now worth £300 million and they increased profits by 60% on last year. It’s hardly very “punk”, and while that in itself isn’t a problem (more success to them I say), it rankles with the David versus Goliath image they like to portray of their relationship with other brewers. It doesn’t help that I think some of their more recent beer releases have been crap (see This.Is.Lager). I shouldn’t moan too much – they do make good beer and clearly support smaller brewers, even if they are making a tonne of cash by selling it in their own bars.
Anyway, as a result I found myself drinking quite a few of the other brands on offer, including the following three (I’ll be honest, I didn’t make notes on everything I drank!)
Mikkeller Chill Pils Yuzu – The first beer I had and probably my outright favourite at the AGM, this is a fruity pilsner lager made using the Yuzu fruit (no I didn’t know that was a fruit either). It’s a full bodied, hazy beer, balancing a smooth carbonation and fairly thick mouthfeel with plenty of juicy, tropical citrus flavours. There’s some elements of a lagery hop flavour there as well, but it would probably be best classified as a fruit beer. Super refreshing stuff from the crazy Danes.
BrewDog Hinterland – well I couldn’t really not have this once they announced it on stage. A proper thick milk stout made with oatmeal. Surprisingly bitter for a milk stout, it has a roasted, slightly burnt coffee flavour with rich caramel sweetness underneath. It is pretty potent (of course it is) so you get a boozy vapour at the back of the throat. Not as nice as the Bounty Hunter by Beatnik, which I didn’t have myself but did get to rather jealously sample from my drinking companion.
Ballast Point Grunion – An American Pale Ale, this was pretty unimpressive and blandly hoppy. Some herby flavours but mostly just the usual. I later had the Dorado by the same brewer and it was much the same but twice as strong!
I also retired This.Is.Lager just to see if I had a bad pint when I reviewed it last year. I didn’t. It’s still crap.
So today I find myself, once again, in sunny Aberdeen. We’re at the Brewdog AGM for the second year, and I’m going to try much harder to write legible notes on the beverages I sample. I may even try a few video reviews with my esteemed drinking colleagues and get their views on the best of the beer.
So this is an interesting addition to the original Czech Budweiser family, and with more B’s in the name than are strictly necessary. At least the epithet “Strong” is justified, as this weighs in at 7.5% despite the rather innocent golden, lagery appearance.
I suppose this could technically be the tipple of choice for Plzen’s tramps, the Bohemian version of Tennant’s Super, but I’m informed it’s actually an “Imperial Lager”. The more obvious comparator is a Bock, which is designed to pack more punch with a load of extra malt, giving a sweet flavour and thick, sticky mouthfeel.
In fact, it’s pretty sickly, and although there’s a herby, hoppy flavour mixed in, the taste is a little unpleasant after a few sips. You can taste the booze too; it doesn’t disguise it well, and the aftertaste is almost spirity, giving it a rather medicinal quality. Not great – I’ll stick to the normal stuff thanks.
Hey – have you ever checked out the map tab above? It’s a log of the sources of all the beers I’ve tried on here – and I’ve just updated it!
Based in Burton in one of the many old bottling plants, Black Hole is a proper microbrewery. They’re also a fan of the space themed names, some of their other beers including Cosmic, Red Dwarf and Milky way to name a few. Sadly, this particular beer wasn’t exactly out of this world.
It’s perfectly pleasant I suppose, citrus fruity and sweet to match it’s golden colour, not really tangy, more juicy. The hops kick in about half way through, fairly dry but they don’t hang around. It is well balanced and often I praise beers for that quality, but in this instance it makes for something that’s just a bit unremarkable.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of enjoying the Beer House Beer festival in my home town of Bury St Edmunds in sunny Suffolk. This left me with quite the hangover as well, and I place a sizable portion of the blame at the feet of this particular pint. Never trust a cloudy beer says I.
Brewed in the Belgian style, Hebden’s Wheat is brewed in West Yorkshire and has won silver in the CAMRA speciality beers category. Little Valley are a relatively small brewery, up on the Pennines not far from Hebden Bridge, from which the beer gets its name. Founded by a Dutchman and an Englishwoman, the brewing partnership met on cross-continental bike ride – as you do.
The beer is certainly thick and fruity, oranges and grapefruit at the fore with a drier, herby hoppy finish. There is also a yeasty hint in the somewhat chewy texture – heavy going but surprisingly refreshing in the early summer heat. Not as strong as you might expect either, but that’s probably a good thing, for my head anyway… Well worth a try.
Another one from Marston’s, this time a new beer designed to appeal to the “modern” drinker, or a “new generation” of beer fans. In other words, for those that think Pedigree is a drink for old men! The very fact it has its own website shows this is one they’re going to be pushing in a big way this summer.
I may find their motives dubious, but this is actually a pleasant pale. Fizzy and juicy with a green bitterness, it definitely has a refreshing, soft-fruit quality, and I can certainly imagine enjoying one of these with a barbecue in the summer sun. That said, it’s not exactly remarkable beer, tasty but not exactly exciting. With a bit more flavour and punch it could be something special.
Rarely is a beer so aptly named. I expect a little madness from Oakham Ales (check their website) and this certainly delivers it. For a 4% ale, it is powerfully strong, giving you a good gobful of fresh hoppiness, dry and certainly a bit spicy. There’s some high end tart citrus flavour as well – more the rind than the juice – but don’t be mistaken, you’re drinking this for one main reason.
For such a hoppy beer, I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it – perhaps because I knew what to expect!
I am, I think it’s fair to say, an unashamed fan of the darker ale. I get along fine with a hoppy or the fizzy, the sour or the bitter, but there’s something very genuine about dark ale. Like it’s not trying to be anything other than it is (except maybe Black IPA). I suppose I also enjoy the fact that these are often the less well tried ones, not because that’s somehow cool, but because they tend to be more unexpected (I’m not a hipster). I also happen to believe they have more depth of flavour and variety in taste – too much for some. Although they’re often harder work and certainly not as refreshing as their more hoppy, less malty cousins, they offer more, in my humble opinion.
Comfortably Stout is an interesting beverage from Cannon Royall, a former cider brewery based near Droitwich, half way between Kidderminster and Worcester. The most unexpected element of a fairly standard stout flavour mix was the almost sour nature of the burnt malts. There was plenty of rich sweetness and a pleasant chocolatey finish, but the usual bitter or roasty smoky flavour was lacking, instead taking on an almost burnt tangy cheese taste. Not unappealing, a nice drop.