Pub pilgrimage: Harveys 1859 Porter at The Royal Oak, Borough

The lure of two bibulous delights took me to Southwark in south-east London a few days back. First was the lure of a bottle of the new cask strength release of Redbreast 12 year old from incomparable spirits outlet The Whisky Exchange in the Vinopolis complex near London Bridge railway station. Not one I could afford to miss being a lover of pot still Irish whiskey and this being my first opportunity to acquire an unadulterated specimen. Second, while I was in the area, was the opportunity of a couple of pints of Harveys Brewery’s exceptional, seasonal 1859 Porter in the multiple award-winning pub the The Royal Oak in Tabard Street, not far from the Northern Line tube station in the heart of The Borough itself.

My quest to acquire Irish Distillers’ latest masterpiece was, I’m glad to report, successful, and I hope to bring my impressions to bear once I get stuck in. Even if that success did mean that I’m another £70 or so down following my near-£100 acquisition a few weeks back of the latest 4.2 Comus expression of Bruichladdich Distillery’s latest mega-peated Octomore whisky, another dram I haven’t had time to sit down and contemplate just yet, despite it crying out for my attention. But I digress…

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The Kernel’s special recipe: tales from the dark side

The Kernel Brewery has frequently been lauded for its championing of old British brewing styles, new twists on those themes and often innovative collaborations with other brewers and, on occasion, other craft produce makers. It’s label design and presentation has also helped draw attention to what is primarily a bottled beer producer.

These characteristics somehow manage both to attract and to repel old school beer aficionados at the same time. For those of us more interested in the quality of the end product rather than the adherence to arcane standards there’s a lot to admire about Kernel, not least its commitment to old methods such as proper bottle conditioning with a huge slug of very loose yeast sediment, its lack of fear in cloudiness (Kernel beers can be very hard to pour clear), and in its belief that its beers can improve steadily with age, with Belgian-style 10 year-plus best before dates typically the order of the day.

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The Essex Cider Shop: getting fruity out east

Christmas, New Year and long into January haven’t been especially festive times here at Tipple Towers. A nasty and persistent bug not only dented my enthusiasm for sampling and blogging but cauterised my palate to such an extent that anything I could taste more closely resembled a pint of creosote or furniture polish more than it did a fine beer or whisky.

So how best to ease myself back in now that some kind of a recovery seems finally to be in effect? Well I’ll have to put my reviews of some long-aged special bottlings on hold, probably until next year end (Malheur Bière Brut, Duvel Triple Hop and Achel de 3 Wijzen were all lined up for consumption but gained another stay of execution). Instead I’ll pick up again on the off-sale scene for quality beverages I’ve previously explored through my visits to Beers Of Europe and SlowBeer, this time with a rare outlet devoted to cider and perry.

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Beers of Europe: car booty call

I promised I’d provide details of my recent haul from the excellent Beers of Europe. Well, here you go. Mainly beers and mainly from the UK, Germany and Belgium. A few oddities from elsewhere, bought either for interest or novelty value (as indeed were some of the Brits), also found their way into my stash. Photos are arranged by loose themes, although more research has revealed a few flaws in the pattern.

Britain first.

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Beers of Europe: a grand day out

I’ve ordered mixed crates of bottled beer from Beers of Europe before but a combination of a work-free Friday and noticing online that it had received some hard-to-get (and much-desired-on-my-part) Belgian bottles led me to visit the company’s retail premises in person.

Open to the public seven days a week, Beers of Europe is located on a typical industrial estate in Setchey just south of King’s Lynn in Norfolk. The warehouse is fairly well situated for visiting continental brewers or receiving stock via eastern England’s ports (including King’s Lynn) but I can’t say for sure that that’s why it’s in Norfolk. Still, it made for a pleasant and at times interesting drive, especially passing under US military jets from RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall.

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Wizards of Oz part four: cider with Aussie (and other fruity tales)

My experiences of pubs and bottle shops in Melbourne and Sydney have certainly whetted my appetite for a return visit. But they also opened my eyes to a parallel but even less explored phenomenon: the even newer vogue for alcoholic cider and even its pear equivalent, perry.

Many of the establishments I visited during my 10 day stay in the country had at least one cider on sale, often on draught, with unthreatening imports such as Ireland’s Magners and Sweden’s Rekorderlig being extremely widespread. Of greater interest, several of the products available came from native producers.

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Wizards of Oz part three: Sydney back to Melbourne

Two days and one full evening in Sydney before returning to Melbourne for a few more days saw me dragging my Australia-domiciled German colleague Carsten to the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel in The Rocks area of old Sydney, not far from our hotel.

While Victoria is perhaps the spiritual heart of the Australian beer renaissance of the past few years it isn’t the only part of the country to partake of the “craft” beer revolution. The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel is a great example of the new beer diaspora the country now enjoys. Indeed, it’s one of the longest standing emissaries of fine beer in the country, having begun brewing in 1986. The pub itself apparently dates from 1841, making it the oldest licensed hotel in Sydney. That it primarily makes British-style beers seems only appropriate. That it makes among the most convincing facsimiles of British beer styles I’ve yet encountered overseas makes it doubly worth visiting. Continue reading “Wizards of Oz part three: Sydney back to Melbourne”

Tonight’s tipple: Birrificio Endorama Malombra

Italy presents an intriguing dichotomy for today’s aficionados of quality alcoholic beverages. On the one hand, the country is so synonymous with and apparently devoted to wine (even I’m a little partial to a nice Chianti, with or without fava beans) – and to a lesser extent its highly-perfumed pomace brandy, grappa – that it would barely seem to have room to devote to the fruit of the barley.

On the other, Italy has been producing quality beers for some years now, and boasts a considerable number of microbreweries, especially (if maybe unsurprisingly) in the cooler north of the country but also with many in the warmer south nowadays. Such establishments may now number in the several hundred across the entire country. Not bad at all for a country supposedly devoted to Bacchus and one of the less well trumpeted destinations for beer travellers in Europe.

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Wizards of Oz part two: chilly draughts and burning wallets

The transformation of the beer scene in Australia over the past few years appears to be even more evident in the pubs and bars of Melbourne than it is in the bottle shops. Even the most resolutely conventional pub seemingly offers at least some small concession to new wave brewing, if not necessarily to micro brews and brewers.

This often takes the form of Matilda Bay Brewing Co’s recently-introduced, American-syle Fat Yak Pale Ale (4.7%, actually owned by Fosters) and Coopers Brewery’s straw-coloured Pale Ale (4.5%, not actually a newcomer but perhaps the brewery that inspired the Australian beer renaissance). Both beers were available widely, including at my Melbourne colleagues’ “local”, the Mitre Tavern on Bank Place off Little Collins Street.

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Wizards of Oz part one: Hawthorn bottle bonanza

Tokyo had provided a tantalising view of how far the Japanese craft brewing movement has come in the last few years. But ten days in Australia prior to that had given me a much better opportunity to appreciate of how good beer can inspire new devotion and put down new roots.

Despite being a beer-loving nation Australia had, until recently, largely forgotten (or perhaps ignored) its brewing traditions and past. But as one of my first blog posts on The Alternative Tipple implied, that has now changed.

Going back to Australia after a gap of thirteen years proved just how much the situation has altered for small brewers. On my previous visit to Melbourne, what had looked like becoming an entrenched if fairly small scale part of the overall brewing scene (if Michael Jackson’s Pocket Beer Book was to be believed) was in fact petering out. Only a handful of new wave breweries looked like making it into the new millennium. On top of this, many of the more interesting old brands were fighting a rearguard action to stay alive in a country that had rewritten its brewing history around endless bland – if perhaps fuller-bodied than many – interpretations of international lager.