Sunday, 28 February 2010

Now Drinking: Schneider Aventinus Weizen Eisbock

I don't know about you, but I'm just about ready for winter to be over. As I was taking off the security grilles at the shop the other day, in the pouring rain, I thought "This is odd, we've not had pouring rain for ages". That's because it's been mostly frozen, and fallen as snow.

I don't mind the snow, but I'm bored with winter. The only good thing about it is that my home cellar (a proper, unheated, slightly damp underground room) is at fridge temperature, which means that all of the beer I have is ready to drink (or will be after a few minutes in the glass). It's perfect for nights like this, when I come home after a stupidly busy day, and need something to satisfy me. Cold weather means big beers, and they don't come much bigger than Schneider's Aventinus Weizen Eisbock.

This bottle had sat long enough that the sediment was totally settled out, so after the first pour, and before the all-important swirl, the beer was perfectly clear. Out of curiosity, I took a sip - too obvious. Big, slightly hot, too much, even for a cold evening at the arse-end of winter. I gave the bottle a swirl to disturb the yeast sediment and added it. A storm cloud swirled through the glass, blocking out the light. Another taste, and a different beer is revealed. Both the taste and the texture have been enriched, with a silky smoothness being added to the rum-soaked dried fruit character, and a dusting of cinnamon, nutmeg and mace. It's still big, but it's balanced.

Beers like this only really work in the cold weather. They're a real seasonal treat, a reward for dealing with cold weather, or long, hard days at work, when you feel that you need to be nourished rather than refreshed. When it's cold out, there's nothing more satisfying than a well-made strong beer. If you believe that beers can act as punctuation for the day, then this beer is an emphatic full stop at the end of it. And what a lovely way to finish.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to miss winter when it's gone.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Birthday Round-up: What Have We Learned?

The lines are closed, the votes are in, and the general consensus is that my splendidly self-indulgent 40th birthday bash as outlined here was a great success. Everyone drank beer, and almost everyone liked almost all of it.

There were a few hiccups, of course. The Mort Subite Oude Gueuze raised a few eyebrows, and I was happy that there was a jug of cassis on hand to soften it for those who found it a bit challenging. It was a great reception beer though, and went well with all of the canapes.

I had the duck confit terrine to start, served with Chimay Premiere, and it was a killer match. The richness of the duck and the tang of the pickled beetroot worked brillantly with the soft fruitiness of the Chimay. Even a hardened wine veteran gave it a go, and pronounced it a great success.

My main of pork with apple and vanilla sauce was good, although the Schneider Weisse was a bit heavy for it. Grolsch Weizen might have been a perfect match - oh well, you live and learn. However, everyone went nuts for the cheese course, served with 2005 Fuller's Vintage Ale, and rightly so. The beer had just the right amount of age on it, with an incredibly smooth richness to it, malt and hops integrated into a seamless fusion of flavour that was somewhere between ale and some sort of crazy sherry/port hybrid. Sensational.

By the time dessert rolled around (and I use the term rolled to reflect my physical state as much as anything else), everyone was past their best - the cheese course had done them in. But my match of Black Forest gateau and Ola Dubh 40 was great, a good flavour match, although perhaps a tad on the rich side for anyone without a bovine complement of stomachs. I left some cake and finished the beer, the only sensible thing to do under the circumstances.

Look, I know you're reading this blog because you're interested in beer, and unless something terrible happens to you, you've got a birthday coming up within the next twelve months. Why not find a local restaurant who will let you bring beer in for a corkage charge, buy a copy of The Brewmasters Table, and put a menu together with the restaurant? Have yourself a cheery beery birthday - it was more fun than I ever thought it could be. Just don't give people a choice of what to drink.

That picture of a ravaged plate of cheese and a spent bottle of Fuller's 2005 Vintage Ale lines me up nicely for a report on a visit to Chiswick's finest. Watch this space.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sam Adams Imperial Stout with Baked Vanilla Cheesecake

This sort of joins up with the post from 10 days ago, in that it's another imperial stout, and I'm having to plough through the cellar at the moment and try to finish up some of the beers that I want to drink while there is still snow on the ground (and in Leeds today, we have about 3 inches on the ground).

I could have paired this with any of 4 or 5 imperial stouts, but the Sam Adams one leapt out at me, mainly by being at the front of the shelf. Sam Adams produce a huge range of beers, but the only one we see regularly here is their Boston Lager, imported by Shepherd Neame. Despite a few phone calls and a bit of gentle cajoling, it seems as though Sheps aren't going to import anything but Boston Lager in the near future. A shame, but there we go.

The imperial stout is part of Sam Adams' Imperial series - basically, smaller runs of bigger beers for the more niche end of the market. It's a great departure for a big and successful brewer, and makes you wonder why more people don't do something similar. It puts me in mind of Carlsberg's response to the burgeoning microbrewing scene in Denmark - they just started brewing characterful small batch beers, which were embraced by the Danish beer geeks.

The match of imperial stout and vanilla cheesecake isn't rocket science. Both the beer and the dessert are fairly big and chewy, with similar textures, but contrast hugely on the flavour front. But although they contrast, they also highlight the commonalities - the lovely rich creamy vanilla quality in both of them. As you'd expect, the imperial stout is stuffed full of chocolate and espresso character, very clean and slickly executed, as all Sam Adams' beers tend to be.

It's a big gutsy pairing, not something to eat at the end of a large meal. We had this after a fairly light supper, and in calorific terms, it was the bigger half of the meal. It makes perfect sense to me - go easy on the salad to leave plenty of room for dessert and an impy.

POSTSCRIPT: I had another chunk of cheesecake a few nights later with a Stone Russian Imperial Stout, which is a much bigger, wilder beast altogether - lots more burnt and smoky notes going on than in the Sam Adams. If anything, this wildness made it an even better match.

Friday, 19 February 2010

On Pub Quizzes and Hop Cannons: A Birthday Ramble

It's my birthday. I'm 40. I'm having a beer and food dinner with friends later, as mentioned here, and as you may guess, I'm going to write about in excrutiating detail. But for now, a ramble of things that have happened lately.

First up, there's an effort being made to stage the world's biggest pub quiz. I haven't seen any other bloggers mention it (apologies if you have, I can't read everything), so why not have a look at their website, or follow them on Teitter. Go on, it's for charity.

Secondly, at the start of the year I wrote a spoof piece about the worst beer in the world. In it, I mention that the brewery resorted to shooting hops from a cannon. What a ludicrous thought - who in their right mind would do such a thing? Well, at the Dogfish Head dinner the other evening, I was talking to Andreas from Vertical Drinks (the importers), and he mentioned that the 90 Minute IPA actually does have hops shot into it from a gas-activated cannon. You can see the video about it here.

Finally, thanks to everyone for their best wishes, via Twitter, email, text and old-fashioned but much-prized cards - I'm touched. With astounding timing, as I sat typing this, a courier arrived at the door with a gift case of beer from Hall & Woodhouse, or Badger as they are more commonly known. Thanks very much to Badger for their generosity. I'm off to see them in a few weeks, and you can expect a write up on that, and their beers, in the fullness of time. Cheers!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Now Drinking: Sierra Nevada / Dogfish Head Life and Limb

OK, so I'm obviously not actually drinking it right now, but less than 12 hours ago I rolled up to the end at the Dogfish Head beer and food dinner at Leeds' excellent The Cross Keys Pub (part of the North Bar group). I'm always late to these events as I work until 9pm, and anyway, I'd sent my other two co-workers to the dinner. That's just the kind of guy I am.

The nice thing about arriving late was being able to try this absurdly rare beer with a relatively fresh palate. I warmed up with a tiny glass of Palo Santo Marron, a a delicious strong (12%abv) brown ale that is aged in huge wooden vats (made from the eponymous palo santo wood). Palo Santo Marron is a stunningly good beer, with endless chocolate, liquorice and spice depths, and a suggestion of tannins that bodes well for ageing potential. Delicious, drinkable and structured, it's a perfect nightcap beer.

But of course, I wasn't about to go to bed, I was about to drink the much talked-about collaboration between Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada, their Life and Limb project. In the short introductory video, it's explained that Life and Limb is a beer that is intended to focus more on the malt character, while the parallel Limb and Life project is more hop-focused.

Life and Limb pours a dark coffee-brown, with a slightly tan head. It's a bit tight on the nose - there's some dark malt character, some slightly green hop hop notes, and a suggestion of some slightly savoury quality that's hard to pin down. Fellow writer Adrian Tierney-Jones (who miraculously appeared just as the Life and Limb was opened) suggested Marmite, which is not too far off, although for me Marmite is something that is more associated with older beers - maybe roasted chicory might be nearer the mark.

On the palate, again (and frustratingly), it's all a bit tight, with perhaps even a suggestion of green-ness. Don't get me wrong, it's all stuffed with flavour, with an earthy, spicy note dominating, which I'd guess to be an interaction between the hops and the birch syrup. In fact, there is quite a bit in common with the Palo Santo Marron, a woody, slightly grippy note, albeit moderated with a much lighter body and more hop spice and bitterness. But the flavours and textures aren't quite melded together properly yet.

I think that, like many great works of art or craft, the true genius of this beer will only be revealed over time. This is definitely one for the cellar, and I'd happily make some space in mine for as many bottles as I can get. And therein lies the problem - this beer is virtually unobtainable, and will almost certainly be consumed before its time by the over-eager and enthusiastic. As a measured professional, I'd urge you to send your bottles to me for safekeeping and, ultimately, evaluation through consumption. But not for a few years yet.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

A Certain Way With Chicken Livers

If I was feeling really motivated and focused, I'd pretend that this is the first in a monthly series of recipes, with suggested beer matches thrown in. However, I can't imagine for a second that I will actually get around to doing this once a month, but the other evening I pulled off this tasty, hearty meal, and dug out a couple of great beers to go with it.

The beers that I tried with this are Greene King Strong Suffolk Vintage, and Orval. Both have an earthy quality to them that works well with the hearty nature of the chicken liver and cabbage. The tartness of the Strong Suffolk marries up with the earthy flavours, and the sweetness of the onions brings out the sweetness in the beer. The peppery dryness of the Orval works against the richness of the dish, cutting through nicely, but still bringing out the earthy flavours. I've said earthy a lot there, but I can't think of a better adjective to describe the wholesome, wintry goodness of this.

Ingredients: 2 medium onions, 2 rashers bacon (I used green back, but collar or streaky would be fine), 400g chicken livers, 5 or 6 large Savoy cabbage leaves, 4 medium potatoes (scrubbed, skin on)

Scrub the potatoes, cut into quarters and put on to boil.

Peel the onions, then cut them in half top to bottom, and slice them finely. Caramelise them - cook them very slowly with butter and oil for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and reduced in volume by half. Set aside.

Drain the potatoes, and cut them into rough dice. Set aside.

Cut the bacon into thin slices and fry. Set aside with the onions.

Shred the cabbage fairly finely, and fry in the bacon fat left in the pan. Cook quickly for a few minutes, then set aside with the bacon, potatoes and onions.

Separate the lobes of the chicken livers, and cut out any fat and connective tissue. If any of the lobes of liver are particularly large, cut these in two. Fry the livers until just cooked (about 3-4 minutes - they should still be slightly bloody at this point).

Add the onions, bacon, cabbage and potatoes back to the livers, and mix well to heat through. Season with a little salt if needs be, and plenty of black pepper. The livers should now be pink, but not bloody.

Serve with either Greene King Strong Suffolk or Orval. Or, if you're of a curious mind (as I was), serve both.

POSTSCRIPT: The Orval was a fairly aged bottle, bottled a couple of years ago, and was quite bretty. It really stunk of barnyards, which is of course a euphemism for cow shit and damp barns. It was initially at the upper limit of what I can tolerate for brett, but this blew off a bit over 10 or so minutes, revealing the classic, dry, peppery Orval character

Friday, 12 February 2010

1992 Courage Russian Imperial Stout and Three Floyds Dark Lord

This is a bit of an unfair comparison. One of these beers is an icon, a classic that has spent the last 18 years settling down in the bottle, slowly maturing, integrating, ageing gracefully. The other bottle is almost alarmingly fresh, still full of the fire of the brew kettle, and the bright spiky edges of the copious amount of ingredients (conventional and otherwise) that have been crammed into the bottle.

If that sounds a tad flowery, it's because I'm skirting round the issue of trying to compare the two. The reason they are both in the same video is that Rob from (@BGRTRob on Twitter) very generously shared them with me, and obviously I wanted to document both of them. So rather than making a ludicrous comparison, lets address them separately.

The Courage Imperial Stout (I think this one was brewed by John Smith, hence the rather clumsy "Courage Smiths" in the video) isn't a beer I've had before. I've seen it eBay many times, and on the showing of this bottle, I'm sad that I haven't scooped a few more of them up. Although I'm not a huge fan of really old beers, this imperial stout was in a good place, balancing the intense, empyreumatic character of a proper imperial stout with the gentle attrition of time. All the rough edges have been smoothed off, leaving a core of dark fruit, undergrowth, rich dark tobacco and a little meaty, soy-sauce character. It also has some port wine notes, some old sweet sherry character, and these are all characteristics that you only get in older beers. You can't fake it, or cheat it, it's just the effects of old age.

The Three Floyds Dark Lord is a modern icon. We have a regular customer at the shop, an American beer geek named Geoff (he'd be proud to be known as such, I'm sure), and when I told him that I'd hard a bottle of Dark Lord, he excitedly asked "Oh my god, did you cream? That's supposed to be amaaazing!". I have to say that I didn't achieve a peak of sexual excitement from drinking the Dark Lord, but it is an exhilarating beer. Just the sheer volume of flavour is one thing, and the intensity of the separate flavours is another - espresso, bitter chocolate, honey, black treacle (molasses), pepper, and some winter spice notes. It's a huge bruiser of a beer compared to the faded glory of the Courage Imperial, but not doubt over time it will achieve the same grace and elegance.

At the time of writing, the thrill of drinking such an exalted beer as Dark Lord is still with me, but it's the incredible soft, voluptuous range of flavours in the Courage Imperial that springs most easily to mind.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

It's my party (and I'll specify the drinks if I want to)

Hooray! I'm going to be 40 years old in 9 days time. To celebrate, I'm gathering a dozen close friends together at Leeds Corn Exchange, aka Piazza by Anthony (pictured left). We're going to have some excellent browsing and sluicing, in a private dining room at the venue. They've allowed me to specify the menu (from a variety of options), agreed to a very modest corkage charge for the beers that I want to bring, and have a huge amount of poncey Riedel stemware for us to drink from. Depending on your point of view, this is either a splendid way to celebrate my birthday with friends, or an irritating and toe-curling evening of poncing it up with beer. I don't mind what you think, but I'm looking forward to it.

I've got matches for most of the food, although am still a bit stuck for an aperitif to serve with the canapes - if you have any ideas, then please, fire away. And if you're really stuck for something to do right now, feel free to have a bash at suggesting beer matches for the food - although I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to do, I cross-referenced most of the dishes with Garrett Oliver's "The Brewmasters Table" [beer matches now posted against food].

Just for the avoidance of doubt, I've suggested food matches for all of the courses, with an option of two very different dessert beers that should work well with any of the puddings. I've asked my friends to have a go with the beer matches, although if they choose to drink something else, that's fine (I suppose).

Canapes (6/7 of each, first come first served)
Cauliflower Trifle
Pea Veloute, Coconut
Crab with Gazpacho Espuma
Potted Crayfish and Spiced Bread
Roast Chicken Wings & Shaved Mozzarella
Ham Hock & Mustard Caramel
- served with Mort Subite Oude Gueuze

Terrine of Duck Confit, Pistachio & Pickled Beetroot - served with Chimay Red
White Onion Risotto with Coffee and Parmesan Air - served with Duvel
Shellfish Soup - served with PJ Fruh Kolsch

Lemon Sole, French Beans, Brown Shrimp Butter - served with Hoegaarden Wit
Roast Pork, Sage Parmentier, Apple & Vanilla Puree - served with Schneider Weisse
Sirloin Steak, Mushrooms, Onion Rings - served with Sam Smith's Nut Brown Ale

3 different cheeses - hard, soft and blue - served with Fullers Vintage 2005

Poached Pineapple, Cardamom Ice Cream
Black Forest Gateau, Cherry Ripple Ice Cream
Baileys and Chocolate Cheesecake
- choice of Mort Subite Kriek or Ola Dubh 40yr Old

Monday, 8 February 2010

Greene King Part 2: 1936 Coronation Ale

We'll start with a correction. All the way through the video, I refer to this beer as being 65 years old. Of course, if it was bottled in 1936, it's actually 75 years old (well, 76, to be precise). I've no idea why my maths failed me - I think it's something to do with being 40 in a few days, and refusing to acknowledge the passage of time after the year 2000.

I know that I've blogged on Greene King's wood-aged beers before, so I won't retread that. If you'd like to look at what I said about Old Crafty Hen and Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale, you can do so here. But I will say again that I think their wood-aged and blended beers are not only interesting to drink, but also a fascinating piece of preserved history. I know of another UK brewery who are about to reissue some of their old beers as part of a historic series, and also produce a variation on the theme of blending stock (stored) and running (fresh) ales. Someone else is about to do that, but Greene King are already doing it.

So, when I left Greene King, they very kindly let me take a bottle of their unlabelled 1936 Coronation Ale. This was for the coronation that never happened - in between acceding to the throne and being crowned, Edward VIII decided he'd rather marry Mrs Simpson than be king of England. She was clearly a hottie of epic proportions to be able to make him throw away such a splendid meal ticket, but I digress.

It's the oldest beer I've ever drunk, and it was actually in pretty good shape. A little tart, a suspicion of being slightly corked, but still pretty drinkable. It smelt of madeira, old wood, dust, fruitcake and that slightly undergrowthy note that the French call sous-bois. It's clearly old, but given it's modest 4%abv, it's held up remarkably well.

The blending thing was a moment of inspiration, where I didn't really want to drain pour a 75 year old beer, but neither did I feel like tackling a whole bottle - it was good, but challenging. Thing about Greene King's history of blending beers, I thought I'd try a little in with the Hen's Tooth. It added a great depth and complexity to the Hen's Tooth, and conversely, the Hen's Tooth gave a bit of structure and support to a beer that was on it's last legs. If you're got any 75 year old beer kicking about in the cupboard, why not give it a try?

Saturday, 6 February 2010

The Session: Cask vs Keg: American IPA

One of the things that I love about the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) is the stunning array of foreign beers on offer there, on the Bieres Sans Frontieres bar. I know it sounds wilfully perverse to go to the biggest cask ale festival in the world in order to drink foreign beer, but I do.

One the things that makes this bar a highlight is that they usually have a huge array of American IPAs (and all the style variants thereof). But this being a CAMRA festival, they ask for these beers to be cask-conditioned specially for the festival. I think it's safe to say that the majority of American IPAs (and American beer in general) is not often dispensed in this format.

So, it's the best cask ale festival in the world, and it's great that these beers are on offer. I'm even a fan of serving cask ale by gravity, straight from the cask tap into a glass. But still, it feels like there's a little something missing. That something is the tart prickle of CO2.

I think that the majority of American IPAs are better drunk as they were intended to be served - with a little zizz of CO2, and on the cold side of cool. This isn't a moan about quality of cellarmanship at the GBBF (or anywhere else), or a moan about CAMRA's insistence that beers shouldn't be served under CO2 pressure. Those are different arguments, and ones that I have a lot of respect for. But what I am saying is that all too often, the big malty backbones and showy hop characters of these beers are lost through lack of carbonation. There is just too much flavour in them to be showcased with the sort of gentle carbonation that cask conditioning gives. It needs the slightly coarser aeration of forced CO2.

So to be clear: CAMRA run the best cask ale festival in the world, and I'm grateful to go there and drink the beers on offer, cask-conditioned or bottled. But these big beers need a little spritz to lift them, and I'm not talking about a sparkler. Now that really IS a different argument.

POSTSCRIPT: yes, I know The Session is a Friday thing, but as you can see, I was drinking beer and making enchiladas


Friday, 5 February 2010

Now Drinking: Gadd's India Pale Ale

Oh. My. God. I've just had one of those peak beer experiences that you read about and think "Oh piss off, that never happened". I'm doubly delighted that it's happened with a Gadd's beer, as a few days ago, I was a bit less than complimentary about one of Eddie's beers - hey, it's not fun, but you have to call it as you see it.

Anyway, tonight I made enchiladas. It's very easy, and if anyone is interested, I'll give you the recipe. It's veggie too - we try to eat veggie a few times a week. As I served the food up, I thought "Damn, I wish I had a nice hoppy beer to go with this". I think spicy food works really well with hoppy beer, so I went and had a rummage, and found a lone bottle of Gadd's India Pale Ale lurking in a case of Innis & Gunn beers (we'll be having them with a tarte tatin in a few days).

With the food already on the plate, I just wanted to pop the cap, pour and eat. As I took the cap off, there was a gush of foam, and a momentary thought of "Christ, these Gadd's beers are turning out to be a nightmare". Then I notices there was something in the foam at the bottle mouth. With a brief thought of "Christ, these Gadd's beers are turning out to be thoroughly pestilent", and then a moment of realisation - "Christ, that's a whole hop!"

I've no idea what variety of hop it is - Eddie, if you're reading, maybe you can tell us. But it added a fantastic spicy, earthy edge to a beer that I've had before and thoroughly enjoyed. It was an IPA++. And it was exactly the beer that I wanted to drink, at exactly the right time. And it was such a fantastic bonus to know that, at the point of production, someone had taken the time to push a whole hop cone into a bottle, with the simple thought in their mind that it would bring a greater amount of pleasure to the drinker.

And it did. So thank you.

Now Drinking: Lefebvre Hopus

Belgian beer can be really lively on the tongue. I've sort of got the hang of pouring it from a bit of a height to knock some of the carbonation and, according to a video that I can't currently find, "activate the flavour compounds". I use speechmarks because I don't think that a carbonation-removing pour activates flavour compounds, but it does leave more of the beer in contact with the tongue when you drink it. Rather than a mouthful of froth, you actually get some beer. And it's better to taste beer than taste froth.

I like quite a bit of Lefebvre's output, my favourite perhaps being Barbar, their honey beer. Oddly, this has quite a similar flavour profile, with a lot of honeyed esters and a faintly phenolic edge. I'm not totally convinced by how it tastes - it sort of falls between two beers, being half Barbar and half Duvel, but not quite as enjoyable as either of them. Although there is a lot of hop character, it isn't the usual in-you-face citrus and pine needle assault, rather a more refined effort using (at a guess) plenty of noble Saaz.

As it's the first bottle I've tried, I'd happily drink another, if only to confirm my impressions. But I'm not sure I'd go for a third.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Greene King Part 1: Hen's Tooth

At the end of 2008, just after I won the big gong from the British Guild of Beer Writers, I got an invite from them to go and visit. I wanted to, I really did, but things got in the way, and so it was almost a year to the day after the invite that I got down to see them.

Like a lot of beer enthusiasts, I have to say that initially I was interested more in the historical bits of the Greene King story than their current output. The brewery itself is pretty central to Bury St Edmunds, now covering a few acres with the town having grown around it. It's a classic tower brewery, and brewery itself is actually pretty interesting, with lots of unusual features that make it worth a visit, from the coppers located at the front of the brewhouse in front of huge windows that face out onto the street, to the unusual dual grain hopper that feeds two mash tuns. Well, OK, you'd have to be a bit of a geek to get excited about that, but I am, and so I was. It's a nice feature that brewer Craig Bennett is clearly proud of.

It means that they can either do a double mash of the same brew, or have two different mashes going on at the same time. Flexibility and capacity are the keywords for a successful brewery, and Greene King certainly have both. Moving through into the fermentation hall, the long uniform lines of fermentation tanks give a slightly creepy feel to the place - there's a definite mad scientist, 1950s vibe to the hall that is snapped up short when you notice the anachronism of a couple of new wooden vats at the far end. As an ongoing process of repair and preservation, Greene King have had to renew the wooden vats in which they age their very strong ale, the 12%abv Old 5X. This is a constituent part of their Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale, blended with a 6%abv BPA. There is also one original Vats left, in the older part of the fermentation hall. It's tucked away in the rafters, with the lid covered in Suffolk marl, a gravelly, sandy soil that is said to help keep micro-organisms out of the beer. It's something of an irony that they work so hard to keep the top sealed, as the beer itself essentially spoils under the influence of various bacteria and micro-organisms in the wood itself.

Moving down into the cellar of the tower brewery, I'm treated to a thorough tasting session of almost every beer in their portfolio, some new releases, some re-releases, and some never to be released. Greene King have a house style, there's no getting away from that, and some detractors say that the beers from breweries that they have assimilated into their portfolio now all taste the same. They clearly don't, but as I say, they do have a particular house style - you can tell a Greene King beer by the chewy, softly fruity malt, the minerally character, and the peppery English hops. I was surprised to find that I actually really enjoyed almost everything in the portfolio, with particular highlights being Abbot Reserve and Hen's Tooth, which is featured in the video below.