Belgium is home to many sour classics
I seem to have been consuming a fair number of deliberately sour beers of late. I’ve even made a point of attending a couple of tastings in London earlier this year featuring such brews. These have included an excellent event given by Canterbury’s Bottle Shop in Covent Garden back in May and an eclectic sour-beer-meets-sour-mash beer and bourbon tasting at Craft Beer Co Brixton in June.
In July I even had the pleasure of exposing some relative beer novices to the delights of a couple of classic Belgian “sours” as part of a tasting I myself hosted at The Rake in London Bridge on behalf of my friends at Whisky Squad (barrel aging being the slightly spurious link to the whisky making process I used to justify their inclusion).
While my everyday preference is currently for good old English bitter – probably the first time in the past twenty years that this has been true – I’ve never failed to be drawn to the parallel universe of beers that lie on the sour side and their potential to turn drinkers’ expectations on their heads. Increasingly it seems that many others feel the same.
Welcome to The London Distillery Co
As a reasonably established member of Whisky Squad I recently took up the offer of a Saturday “field trip” to The London Distillery Company (or TLDC for short) in Battersea. The first whisky distillery in London for over a hundred years – the former Lea Valley Distillery, in Stratford, east London apparently ceased making the spirit in 1905 – is the brainchild of Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Glenmorangie alumnus Darren Rook and investor (and former microbrewery owner) Nick Taylor.
I’d previously met Rook at last October’s TWE Whisky Show when TLDC was still little more than a business plan and was intrigued to see how far the project had progressed. Situated in a former dairy in a remote corner of Battersea, next to Ransome’s Dock, TLDC now boast two stills (Christina the gin still and Matilda the whisky still) and four mash tuns and washbacks (two of each I think). There’s also room for a dedicated spirit still (Matilda will serve as both wash and spirit still for the time being), some limited barrel storage (the rest will be kept in a bonded warehouse somewhere in London) and desks made from wood reclaimed during the dairy conversion.
Rook admires TLDC’s handiwork so far
Co-operative cider is a good one
Cider may be experiencing its greatest period of popularity for many a decade but the foundation of that success owes little to traditionally made products. Rather it’s been the products of marketing departments – and countries not typically regarded as cider lands – that have led to the explosion of cider consumption (my guess is that genuine interest in these products is rather lacking among their drinkers, however). I don’t need to name names as you’ll know which brands I mean.
A few better products from large-scale, established English producers such as Thatchers or Westons can usually be found in the aisles. However, there’s still a real dearth of anything out of the ordinary cider-wise in local supermarkets I use in the East London and Essex areas. Which is why The Co-op’s Tillington Hills Premium Cider is so notable. Continue reading
Inside TWE Whisky Show at Vinopolis
Apologies for the recent blogging hiatus here at Alt-Tipple Towers. The back end of 2012 turned out to be bit fraught for a variety of reasons and so this already delayed post was pushed back further and further. Still, its emphasis on the products of new wave world and micro whisky distillers (a topic I’m very keen on) meant I felt it was worth resuscitating despite being started last October. So here we go.
Unexpected good fortune in early October 2012 saw me in attendance at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show at Vinopolis wine complex near London’s South Bank and what a superb day out it was.
A barely remembered entry of my name and email address into an online raffle on the Whisky Marketplace price-comparison website won me two Sunday tickets, worth a cool £99 each, to the capital’s biggest whisky event. With my whisky-loving friend Cliff in tow I headed to London Bridge and joined the queue heading in at noon.
Adnams’ Fergus Fitzgerald walks us through his world
By The Tippster
Yes, yes, I know I’m writing about Adnams again but that’s because it’s perhaps the most progressive of the old established brewers in Britain and regularly has new things to shout about.
Anyway some friends and I, including fellow blogger The Guest Ale (until this point an Adnams sceptic, you can read his take on the same event here) couldn’t resist the offer of £10 tickets for a guided tasting of Adnams’ many beers in September in the company of its head brewer Fergus Fitzgerald. And what a well spent £10 it proved to be.
Given the surroundings, downstairs at the Adnams Cellar & Kitchen store in Bloomsbury, a tasting of Adnams ales in cask-conditioned form would have been impractical. And the company doesn’t produce bottle-conditioned beers due to their wide distribution and requirement for a decent shelf-life. Nonetheless, Adnams beers seem particularly resistant to the brewery conditioning process that often knocks the stuffing out of many other breweries’ products, managing to maintain the house character derived from the Southwold brewer’s uniquely spicy yeast. Either that or Adnams has developed a far more sympathetic process.
Whisky Squad nights are always the best in town
By The Tippster
I’d heard of the Whisky Squad long before I finally attended one of their tasting evenings. As a regular drinker at my favourite Clerkenwell pub The Gunmakers until my work moved to the West End last year, I’d several times been kept from sitting in the back room because it had been booked out, according to pub landlord Jeff Bell, by “a bunch of folk drinking whisky”. Or some words along those lines.
Strangely, given that I’m a considerable enthusiast for beer’s distilled cousin, I didn’t enquire any further at the time. As such, I only recently came to full awareness of the Squad through some random web surfing and avowed that I’d get along to one of their £15 sessions ASAP.
Whisky Squad events are extremely popular with those in the know and demand commitment to reserve a place, tickets going on sale online for the (usually) two or three events a month at an appointed time and data and typically selling out in minutes.
Mr Fitzpatrick’s is a piece of living history
By The Tippster
Giving column space over to non-alcoholic drinks might seem at odds with the name of this blog but then I’ve always left the door open to writing about any drinks-related topics that interest me, whatever their provenance. And in the case of Mr Fitzpatrick’s Temperance Bar in Rawtenstall, north of Bury in Lancashire, I’m very much interested.
Mr Fitzpatrick’s is a temple (well, actually more like a chapel), dedicated to the 19th century temperance movement, an ill-conceived effort started by well-meaning religious types to persuade the ‘oi polloi away from the demon drink.
Although temperance bars were once common in the north west of England, Mr Fitzpatrick’s is now the last of its kind. Opened in 1890, Mr Fitzpatrick’s unspoiled, uncomplicated interior of wooden counters and floors, jars of old-fashioned boiled sweets and other ingredients, is a piece of living history that might also provide ideas for the future, as a better alternative to modern soft drinks for those who can’t or don’t want to consume alcohol for whatever reason.