Friday 3 March 2023


 It's fair to say that the last few years have wreaked havoc on the way that we've lived our lives. People have lost their jobs. People have lost their businesses. People have lost their lives. But finally, it feels (to me, anyway) that we are all returning to some sort of normal, to a life lived outside the home, to a life in our chosen third places.

So it was with no small measure of delight that I boarded the 9.48 from Leeds to Sheffield on Friday morning with a beer-writing hero, colleague, and friend Adrian Tierney-Jones. Delight because I knew that I would have his undivided attention for the duration of the train journey, and we hadn't seen each other for, ooooh, five years? We talked of many things, of friends and foes, of death and attrition, but the most notable finding from that journey was that we were both at New Order's Albert Hall gig in October 1986 - I was raving front of house, he was interviewing the band backstage.

We were heading for Sheffield's Indie Beer Feast, now in its fifth year - or is it five years since the first one? It's hard to know how to count it. Anyway, Jules and the team are hanging in there. I was going because, well, shit, this is what I always used to do. This is what I'm supposed to do. This is what I like to do. Meet people. Make connections. Join dots.

Not only Mr. Tierney, but also actual Pete Brown. If Adrian is a hero, Pete is a colossus. He's got a couple of decades-worth of writing chops filed away in a fast-access data bank. He's giving a tutored talk on one of Evin's beers in 30 minutes. But neither he nor Evin - another absolute titan - know which beer. But it doesn't matter, because whatever you throw at Pete, he deals with. 

And the beers? A bretted table beer from Red Willow to start - perfect. Kernel Pale Ale - perfect. D'or Mouse from SMoD - crunchy and delicious. Rock Leopard We Must Love Or Stars Must Fall - snappy and complex. McColl's El Capitan - delicious. Neptune Lost At Sea - delicious. Those last two were both absolutely banging west coast IPAs. Which was better? The jury's still out. I had to run to a pre-4pm train. 

Anyway, thank you Indie Beer Feast, for a few short hours today, the stars aligned and you were perfection to me. 

Sunday 12 February 2023

Strip Mining The Christmas Recycling

[PREFACE] This article contains links to Beer Ritz. I haven't written the article just to include the links, but in these lean times it feels perverse not to include them. Everyone always assumed I blogged to publicise the various businesses and enterprises I was involved in, so eventually, here we are.

I've only just got round to taking the Christmas glass recycling to the bottle bank. Yes, that's incredibly slovenly, but it didn't need emptying until just now. This doesn't necessarily signify a reduction in my drinking - cans go in the green bin now - although it's true that I do drink a lot less these days. But it was interesting to work through a few seams of empty bottles to the bottom of the bin and remind myself of what I chose to drink (and share) over Christmas. 

First up, The Kernel. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways into the mixed glass recycling pod. Quite a lot really. They brewery were kind enough to send us a selection case for Christmas, but I already had Table Beer and a couple of Pale Ales in the cellar anyway. Like The Fall, as John Peel had it, they are always the same, and always different. They are simple and satisfying, delicious and drinkable, heroic and humdrum. And for the brewery who coined the "London murky" style, their beers are now remarkably haze-free.

Working down, past the Christmas day wines, past the Michters (one bottle a year, on my birthday), we get to the Belgians, three bottles of each. Two from St Bernardus - the Tripel, and the peerless Christmas Ale. Their ABT is still a go-to of mine, but ABT and Xmas seemed like a surfeit of riches. The Tripel was there as a foil to Westmalle Triple, a sort of a taste-off, trying to answer a question about how triples work. I didn't find an answer, but the clues all point to the yeast - Westmalle yeast seems to produce a drier, cleaner beer, St Bernardus a rounder sweeter beer. I guess this explains why St Bernardus' darker beers are all sensational but the Tripel slightly flabby, and the Westmalle Tripel arguably the classic of the style, but the Westmall Dubbel lacking in complexity. More research needed.

Outliers: De Ranke Pere Noel - not bought to test a theory, or out of love and loyalty, but just because it was there and, well, why not. De Ranke's beers are genuinely world-class, and Pere Noel has a delicious pine-resin note to it that smells like christmas trees (to my nose). And Poperings Hommel, just because I'd had a bottle of Ridgeway Very Bad Elf that was so stuffed with classic hops that it reminded me of Hommel. And it was ages since I'd last had one.