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Hornbeam Top Hop Best Bitter, 4.2%, Manchester, UK

I can’t imagine many people have heard of Denton, let alone been there. Using the youth of today’s scale of rating places which goes as far as to ask the question ‘Does it have a Primark?’ the answer is no, although there is one in Stockport now which isn’t a million miles away from Denton. It does have a TK Maxx though, and it turns out, it also has a micro brewery called the Hornbeam brewery. Having spent a lot of my childhood in Denton visiting my Gran I was particularly surprised to find this out and also saddened at the same time. A quick Google search reveals that I drive past the brewery every Tuesday on the way to taking our little pesky dog to his training course; we even stop at the Sainsbury’s for beer amongst other things fairly regularly. I’ve never seen a bottle of Hornbeam in there and it’s right next door!

In 5: Vanilla, Cloudy, Amber, Citrus, Denton

In a world where it’s cheaper to buy something on ebay shipped in from China than it is to buy the same thing at the shop on the corner of your road this isn’t surprising. Perhaps the issue of the big supermarkets stocking real local produce is an argument for another day.

So how was the beer itself?

It poured nicely, even though it had been kept in the fridge instead of room temperature as directed on the label (not to self (again) read the label first!!!). It has a lovely vanilla nose with a cloudy outlook – a bit like the Manchester weather where it is brewed. It is amber in colour with a sharp yet palatable taste as the sweet vanilla aroma contrasts nicely with the citrus ever so slightly floral taste. If I had to categorise it I’d say it is somewhere in between an IPA and a best bitter and it was thoroughly enoyable.

On a side note, I really love the styling of the bottle and branding of the brewery, great work!

This beer has history: the label says “since 1890”, so San Miguel have had over a century to get the beer right. But there is more to the past than a date, as two years ago in the floods that destroyed a lot of rural Pakistan, my Filipino colleague and I spent a long deployment together discussing our first beer once we left the country. We agreed that we would one day meet to drink a San Miguel in the Philippines, and finally we did it last month.

In 5: Wet, Icy, Cold, Damp, Fizzy

The one I drank that night was in a can. I’m not sure Brewskie will even post a review of a beer that is drunk out of a can (Mr Brewskie is becoming a purist)? In my defence I’ve drunk a lot of bottles the past fortnight too. Still the beer tastes good, and we’re served it with a glass full of ice cubes which appears to be local custom and I assume aims to keep it cold. You can taste the fruit of the hops going in, though it is well controlled so that it is clean with a pleasantly sweet after taste. Equally, the gas is just right providing a sufficiently robust fizz to back up the strength of the flavour. The pale colour is sufficiently golden and keeps its head to keep me sipping, which I’m encouraged to do by the ice cubes which I think are melting and diluting the contents of the glass. I remember my colleague explaining to me how he used to buy a 24 pack with his friends on a weekend and spend all afternoon drinking all the cans and I can understand why. He’s paid the price however and is drinking “San Miguel Lite” which together with the ice cubes looks like it tastes of nothing. There are another two types of San Miguel behind the bar so it is definitely the most popular drink in the country, 95% market share I read somewhere…

The food in this part of the country is a lot of fried or barbecued pork and fish so we keep on drinking, the saltiness is refreshed by a new can. It occurs to me that the ice cubes could be a way of counteracting the dehydration effect in the tropics, but the morning afterwards the beer passes the hangover test too. Like most foreign beers, it is a pilsener with limited scope for doing something special: San Miguel just does it well. If only they wouldn’t serve it with ice cubes…

The quest for international beery goodness took us to Wales recently. Well actually, Wales was brought to us via a wonderful Christmas present consisting of a selection of beers from The Great Orme Brewery. What a perfect gift. For those of you not in the know, the Great Orme is a big rock in North Wales, with a tram, a dry ski slope and an amazing toboggan track (note; it was amazing when I was 12 and may now be in a horrendous state of disrepair). There’s some nice scenery and views too if you’re in to that sort of thing. It turns out there is also a Brewery, although not on the Great Orme itself it’s pretty close by.

In 5: Bright, Sweet, Rounded, Tasty, Citrus

A big fan of a pale ale this seemed like the most sensible choice for a first taste of the Orme “a refreshing blonde ale bursting with citrus notes” according to the fancy label. We certainly don’t disagree. It pours an amber colour and is bright and sweet from the off. The pale hops give a touch of bitterness and the citrusy high notes are quite something. It has a sweet and fruity flavour which give it a rounded finish and offset the bitterness just enough.

It’s a very pleasant beer and would be perfect to provide that much needed refreshing moisture in a beer garden on a fine summers evening after work.

Hooray for Belgium – Part 1

It was a typically dark, cold and rainy Sunday afternoon in the midst of the Manchester summer when Mrs Brewskie’s thoughts first turned to Christmas. “Where do you want to go for our Christmas/Anniversary holiday my love?” she said. “Well”, I replied, “I don’t really care, so long as it’s got Christmas markets, nice food and decent beer… How about Belgium?” Her eyes lit up with delight as she realised the other thing that Belgium was famous for, chocolate. It seemed like a match made in heaven, she could eat the best chocolate in the world and I could try some of the best beer in the world. So in the words of that fat man from Bolton, we booked it, packed it and f’ed off! View full article »

North Korean Beer Advert – Epic

There are no words for how awesome, epic, stunning and truly mesmerising this advert for North Korean beer is. The first person to get me a bottle of this wins an amazing prize*.

*The prize given will use my interpretation of an amazing prize which may, and probably will, be very different from your interpretation of an amazing prize

Mynamar Beer, 5.0%, Yangon, Myanmar

A contribution from an ex-pat in Myanmar who shall remain anonymous for more reasons than one!

In 5: Repressed, Semi-precious, Dubious, Lingering, #2

Booze and politics don’t mix. So how is the #1 beer from the #2 dictatorship* in Asia going to shape up? Pouring it from the bottle sat at home in Yangon/Rangoon, there is a definite yeasty smell which leaves me worried that the brewing process has been a little repressed. But I’m not going to protest (it has only just been made legal in this country and so I’m going to be one of the first to give it a go) and I have my first taste.

It’s a little flat and very cold, which on a Sunday afternoon in December when the temperature tops 31°C means that it goes down quick. I’d like to share this with my friends, but this is a country which made it illegal for people to be together in groups of more than 5 in public places. So I decide to drop all my sanctions and open a second bottle.

The same smell comes out the second bottle, but I decide to be diplomatic and turn a blind eye (nose). The label proudly displays medals from international beer competitions which at first seem like quite dubious accolades, but on further inspection it seems like it has actually won them! Unfortunately, for a country renowned for its gems, this beer is nothing more than semi-precious. It does the job, but it’s not going to take any prisoners (out of character for a country which still has a reported 2000 people incarcerated for their political belief). You can’t help but notice that the yeasty, murky taste won’t go away, which serves as a subtle analogy for the rest of the country that is doing everything possible to reform itself on the international stage.

*Brewskie challenge has been set, to review the #1 local beer from North Korea.

Brewskie is back! Sorry for the gap in between reviews, life has rather taken over the last couple of months and although the drinking hasn’t necessarily stopped, the writing about the wonderful things we’ve been drinking unfortunately has.

In 5: Bitter, Sharp, Lively, Tasty, Satisfying

So now we’re back, we decided to come back with a bang and grabbed a bottle of Lakeland Gold off the beer shelf that we’ve been saving for a good few months for the occasion. We bought this flavoursome little number during our trip to the Lake District back in July. The guys at Hawkshead have done a truly wonderful job of opening up their brewery to the public in 2006. When planning our trip we did some research on Breweries in the Lake District and thought that Hawkshead looked like an excellent place to stop for a bite to eat and a jar to drink, we were proved very right. It has a great selection of home brewed ales as well as a selection of international beers and hand picked wines if you are that way inclined. I’ve posted some photos of the brewery below for you.

The Lakeland Gold is a lovely bitter brew with a very distinctive flavour. It is a little darker than a regular golden beer with more of a bitter bite than you get with the regular summery golden beers. But that’s not to say it doesn’t work, there is enough sweetness running through the flavour to keep it interesting and lively. Every mouthful is different and the more you drink the more you discover about its little nuances and it’s this intrigue that keeps you wanting more.

I bought a decent sized batch of bottles of this beer and although I generally only ever drink one of them in a session it’s one I know can be relied upon to give me that beery fix I need after a long day at work. It’s most certainly full bodied and would be particularly good with a curry, the hotter the better!

So, weddingfest 2011 is officially over and the Brewskie family are back at home looking back on a summer of romance, holidays and most importantly, beer. We enjoyed the Cisk in Malta, the Kronenberg in France but by far and away the most fruitful beery destination was the good old Lake District. We visited the excellent Hawkshead Brewery (review to follow) and tried more of the local ales in the pubs around Windermere. But perhaps the most refreshing sight was the high street shops selling the local beers in abundance alongside the other local produce. So we filled out boots, well the boot of the car anyway!

In 5: Treacle, Hazelnut, Staycation, Nutella, Chocolate

So many beers, so little time, we needed to multi-task… As we opened our bottle of Lakeland Bitter we wondered if anyone else had ever drank it on the Eurostar? Probably not, but by golly we were glad we did!

A rich and deep nose is the first thing you notice, very much a rich treacle aroma. The taste follows suit, with a wonderfully complicated mix of flavours which attack your senses. It is very nutty, almost like a hazelnut liquor, with chocolate notes and caramel bites all flooding in without it being overly bitter; it is nicely hopped to balance the flavours. It really did fly down and the only disappointment was that we were on a train to France and couldn’t get any more of this lovely brew for a couple of weeks…

A big thumbs up from Mrs Brewskie too, who can’t quite believe that someone has managed to turn Nutella into a beer! In fact, this is only the 2nd beer to be given the 5 Brewskie pints, quite an accolade some (I) would say!

Hopefully the new wave of people having a Staycation can help this excellent brewery get it’s beers out to even more lucky punters, we will most certainly be stocking up on our next trip to the Lakes.

What makes a British beer great?

For those of you who regularly visit Brewskie you will have noticed that I have a relative fondness for BrewDog beers. Out of the 30 beers I’ve reviewed for the site so far 10% of them have been made by the Fraserburgh-based Micro-brewers and every one of them has had a positive write-up. Do I LOVE the beers they produce? No. But there is something about them that keeps me coming back for more. They are fresh, innovative and exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to encounter on this beer reviewing voyage I have embarked on. This is why I am so surprised that the BrewDogs won’t be at the Great British Beer Festival 2011 with their exciting range of innovative beers. There are obviously two sides to the story but it all seems a bit petty and it is such a shame that they won’t be there and this is my take on why…

Beer brewed by bloggers, that's what I'm talking about!

Perhaps it is clever marketing strategy by the BrewDogs but I feel an affinity with the whole brand; Beers for punks leading the way on a new age path to greater choice. Can I play?! Don’t get me wrong, I’m no punk, I’m more of a nerd with an insatiable appetite for hobbies (model airplanes, home brewing, cooking and playing the trumpet to name a few) but what they are striving for seems to have struck a chord with me.

I’ll be honest, not only am I new to reviewing beer but it turns out I was also pretty pig ignorant when I started writing this website (I didn’t even know the difference between a keg and a cask). I was pushing my views and bad puns on the masses without ‘really’ knowing what I was talking about. But that was kind of the point. I was writing about beer on a ‘like it’ or ‘don’t like it’ level and trying to be entertaining at the same time.  I even set up advertising on my website with the pipe dream of making some money to pay for the beer, and it has nearly paid for a few bottles… nearly!

But we need to go back before then to fully understand why this decision has surprised me so much.

I actually got into beer after a trip with Mrs Brewskie to Munich. It was supposed to be a romantic holiday but we ended up spending 50% of the time in the beer halls and the rest at the hotel bar. We were just totally amazed and drawn in by the different way they treat beer over there than in the UK. Beer halls with 3,000+ capacity selling beer from a single brewery to the masses, it was both good stuff and good value too. We had a guide book and it listed the top 10 Munich beers so we made it our mission to try them all. We managed to track down 8 of them in the end and I now list these amongst my favourite beers and seek them out in the UK whenever possible.

A dog with a bone?

We got back, we joined CAMRA and I started playing around with WordPress to get Brewskie off the ground.

Since I started writing I’ve also tried a lot of real ale, some has been good, some has been great and some has been distinctly average. How do I compare them to the Munich beers? I don’t. Apples are apples and pears are pears. They are fundamentally different drinks but ultimately, they are all beer to me and your Average Joe. I understand the real ale rules about percentages of yeast, pasteurising and filtering but BrewDog aren’t about conforming to the real ale rules, they are about making good beer with new and interesting takes on flavour and strength. If you want a beer in Scotland that is about conforming to a slightly different set of rules take a look at St Mungo brewed according to the German purity laws.

I received my first edition of the CAMRA newspaper not that long ago which started with a rather strange couple of paragraphs about the goals of CAMRA and why ‘craft’ beer, with its loosely defined profile should not be part of its campaign. I thought, fair enough, CAMRA after all is the Campaign for Real Ale and the craft beer movement isn’t really trying to call themselves the real ale movement.

This decision seems to have been mainly born out of some past bickering and a lot of chest puffing from both sides. You don’t all have to be friends, you just need to understand that sometimes in life you have to learn to be tolerant and it is the public that are missing out until you can learn to get along!

After all, it is the Great British Beer Festival and it would be a shame for the BrewDogs not to be able to show their credentials as Great British Beers. Hopefully by 2012 you will have sorted all of this out and I’ll be there for a showcase of exciting BrewDog beer alongside the best of the rest. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend this year’s event as I’ll be in France attending my best mate’s wedding but it looks like I won’t be missing out on my favourite brand of punk beer.

Brewdog Photo Competition

So I’ve decided to start a new section of the site called Blog. This is where I’m going to post slightly more random things off the usual topics of beer reviews and beer recipes. This first post is just to share my entries to the 2011 BrewDog photo competition. Most of the photos feature Alfie and yes, he is the cutest dog in the world, no you can’t have him and, no he isn’t drinking beer I’ve just put some chicken in the empty bottle!

Mmmmmmm beer

A 5am Saint at 5am?

Sniff sniff sniff, sniff sniffaroo

The smallest pint in the world

Please can I have some more?!

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