Beer 230 - Stroud Brewery Tom Long (3.8%)

The original Stroud Brewery shut in 1969. Founded 1760 as Watts, Hallewell & Co, it merged with Cheltenham & Hereford Breweries Ltd in 1958 to form West Country Breweries. It was used as a Whitbread depot until 1969 and was finally demolished in 1970.

In 2004, Greg Pilley decided the time was right to change this. After getting his start in home brewing in the late eighties while at Swansea University, Greg spent the majority of the nineties in Nigeria. There he managed a Wildlife Conservation Project, with the Voluntary Services Overseas

On his return to Stroud, Greg got involved in Stroud Community Agriculture – a community-owned farming enterprise. He recounted to his local newspaper, “One day whilst weeding and chatting to my friend Andy we started to think about how good it would be if Stroud had its own brewery again. I became possessed and was determined to make it happen.”

Around Christmas 2005 they moved into their original premises; a neat little unit on the site of the former Phoenix Mill Foundries in Thrupp. His first brew, Budding; named after Edwin Beard Budding of Thrupp, Stroud, who invented the lawnmower in 1830, was named Champion Beer of Gloucestershire by Gloucestershire Campaign for Real Ales. Brewing was back in Stroud.

Last year Stroud Brewery was awarded a grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to invest in the expansion of the brewery. Their application was successful because he uses locally grown malting barley, supporting the local rural economy. With a further £65,000 investment from the brewery they were able to install a new setup with four times’ the current capacity. Complete with tasting room and a small bar, Stroud Brewery is going from strength to strength.

Thanks to Greg’s strong social commitment to the environment and quality of his products, this has helped the brewery to use only the finest, local ingredients. Their entire bottle range is organic and vegan. They use barley grown in an 11-mile radius from the brewery, which is then malted in the traditional way at Warminster Maltings without high energy use. They also brew the only draught organic beer in the county.

Their expansion shows they are on the march, looking to expand their sales and taking on more staff. Greg however prides himself on the fact that the Stroud Brewery team, “share an ethos of quality, care and great beer and this commitment is reflected in our products.” Wise words

Tonight’s beer took home Silver at the SIBA National Beer Competition and is named after Tom Long is named, a mythical highwayman hung at Tom Long’s Post on Minchinhampton Common, near Stroud. A nod to a character from Stroud’s past but will it steal away my heart?

Lightly amber in colour with thin foamy head, Tom Long sadly doesn’t come with an aroma-soaked hankie to chloroform his victims with. Mild malts and light hops are served up with caramel toffees and vanilla. It’s very subtle and would need a sniffer dog to detect anymore.

To taste, it’s sweet with a gentle stream of citrus hops flowing through it. It’s mildly spicy; think korma, not vindaloo. There’s some other mixed fruits, banana and berries and a taste of shortbread to it. Watery and a bit washed out, it’s very sedate for a beer named after a highwayman. Sadly, more a case of cease and desist, than stand and deliver.

January Overview (a week late...)

He’s only gone and done it. A whole month of Beer366 completed. Not a day missed. Thousands of words written and even if I say it myself, some corking descriptions coined.

I’ve surprised myself, truth be told. I kind of thought I’d have sacked it off at around week two. I’m not the best person at following up on my creative goals. I usually get sidetracked by something else, but this seems to have staying power.

I’m genuinely passionate about completing this ridiculous task. It is forcing my hand to sit down and drink… and write, each and every day. Hopefully at least some of you have found my ramblings enjoyable to read. I’m averaging about 50 visitors, which is lovely. Hardly prolific, but knowing people are taking the time to come back and read my waffle is pretty heartwarming. So thanks.

I’ve found it hard at times to get the posts out. Good old writer's block has been my companion on several occasions, as I’ve sat staring at a blank screen. It really is a challenge and I wasn’t quite prepared for difficult it would actually be to write something new each and every day. I’m sure I’ll hit more hurdles like this as the year progresses. So please bear with me as I stumble my way through.

There are still, as on February 9th,  328 beers to go. However, just to reach this  milestone is pretty momentous. But there’s a long way still to go and there are only so many ways to describe how the colour of a beer. I think I need to get myself a thesaurus.

It’s been a hell of a month beer-wise. 31 new beers tried, seven from the Kernel Brewery; bottles that I’d been keeping in my beer lair for such a special occasion. New favourites discovered and some that were so awful I’d rather eat my own shit than try again. TSA I’m looking at you. My intention is to pick a favourite each month, leading to a  Beer Royale in December. You can all take part if you want.

Re-reading the reviews, there have been some real standouts. Timothy Taylor’s Landlord was an incredibly delicious session beer, with flavour packed in as tight as a family of four’s holiday luggage. Black Isle's Black Islay was a massively moreish whiskey beer, balanced so well that it belied its lofty ABV. But for me the real winner was the Kernel Brewery’s Imperial Brown Stout London 1856. A simply sublime beer; lovingly crafted and so different to the pale ales and IPAs I had during their week long residency.

Aside from bottle reviews, the biggest event last month had to be working with @minkewales at the Ouseburn Valley Brewery to help brew their Russian Imperial Stout. I love Ouseburn Valley. Their transition from garage brewer to a full scale commercial outfit is inspirational and proof that following your dream really can pay off. Being located in the Brandling Villa is even better. A great pub that is able to sell fantastic beers brewed on sight is a real treat. If you haven’t paid a visit in while, stop reading this shit and go.

I’m a sucker for Russian Imperial Stouts so to help bring this 7.8% beauty to life was a dream come true. Excitingly, our beer will be debuting at the Newcastle Arms beer festival this weekend. Be sure to check it out. Seeing a local brewery, especially one as young as Ouseburn Valley, pushing the limits with a big bold belter is fantastic. And I’ll be able to bore the shit out of everyone even more once I’ve tried it tomorrow. Apologies in advance.

Believe it or not, I have drank slightly more than my 31 review beers this month. My extra curricular drinking opened with a particularly long New Year’s Eve session in the Free Trade, where I downed mountains of the Brodies/Kernel collaborative brew Stella For Breakfast. A dark and hoppy S.O.B weighing in at 6.6%, which goes someway to explain the God-awful hangover I endured on January 1st.

I’ve also done a far old bit of drinking in local pubs. My intention was to track each and every beer. Now this started well but as the intoxicating grip of booze closed in around my logic centre it became clear this simply wasn’t going to happen. I’ve noted down as many of the beers that I can remember, or at least the ones I can decipher from scrawl in my notebook.

Tyne Bank Brewery did me proud, as I quaffed many bottles of their Southern Star and Cherry Stout. I then proceeded to drink a lot of their Silver Dollar in several local hostelries. Their Piccolo Black coffee collaboration has just hit the streets. I tried it last night and it’s a knockout. I’m sure my ill gotten gains will be spent on a fair whack of that.

I have also drank thirds/halves/schooners/pints/bottles of the following:

Brakspear Trippel,  Gueze Boon, York Brewery Mickelgate, Williams Brothers Caesar Augustus, Watermill Brewery Dog'th Vader, Brahma Lager, Cantillon Lambic Bio, Shepherd Neame Bishop’s Finger, Summer Wine Rouge, Summer Wine Cohort, Summer Wine Barista, Mikkeller Amarillo Single Hop IPA, Ridgeway Bad King John, Ouseburn Valley Milk Stout, Brooklyn Chocolate Stout, Brooklyn Local No. 1, Brodies Amarillo, Brodies Citra, Flying Dog IPA, Left Hand Milk Stout, Magic Rock Dark Arts, Magic Rock Magic 8 Ball, Saison Dupont, Brewdog Hardcore IPA, Thornbridge Jaipur, Thornbridge Mechalan, Thornbridge Kipling, Cullercoats Brewery Jack the Devil, East London Brewers Bitter, Nogne O Saison, Allendale APA,Stewarts Cauld Reekie, Tempest Mocha, San Miguel, A bottle or three of wine and sprinkling of whisky.

In all fairness, this wasn’t even a particularly heavy month but I've still chalked up and thousands and thousands of additional calories. Terrifying eh?. If I hadn’t started dragging my sorry ass back to the gym I think I would have paid greatly for this.

So, that was January, onward to February. I’ll have another overview in t minus 20 days, so set your watches on my mark…


Beer 173 - Crouch Vale Amarillo (5%)

Today is the Summer Solstice in the UK. And how was the longest day marked? With a disgraceful band of rain that left rivers swollen, towns on flood alert and people generally pissed off. Fantastic.

As over 14,000 Druids gathered at sites such as Stonehenge to celebrate, I can only hope their hemp shirts are water resistant.

The weather of late really has been double wank and shit chips. Hardly a day goes by without a belt of driving rain, cold wind and thick, heavy depressing cloud. Ah the British summer; an annual resounding washout. Local Carney extravaganza the Hoppings has been delayed, which will come as a temporary relief to the hoi polloi of Jesmond. It’s also Wimbledon soon, so we can expect to see Cliff wheeled out at SW17 to wheeze out a few tunes. I have to go out tomorrow and take photos for a brochure for work. The subjects will undoubtedly look like bodies pulled from the river. Mother Nature can officially suck it.

However, my mood was certainly lightened when a box of goodies arrived today from Beers of Europe. The first beer I pulled from this cardboard box of delight sounded like a real summer stormer. So weather be damned I’m uncapping Crouch Vale Brewery’s Amarillo. But I’ve never had anything from Crouch Vale, so let’s do a bit of digging.

Crouch Vale was established in 1981 by two beer enthusiasts; Colin Bocking, who remains at the helm of the company and Rob Walster, who although no longer involved, sells plenty of their wares at his pub, the Prince Of Wales. A stone’s through from the brewery itself, the the Prince of Wales has four lines dedicated to Crouch Vale beers.

Situated close to the River Crouch in the county of Essex, the Brewery not only knocks out an encyclopaedic range of beers, but is also one of the largest wholesalers in the Eastern counties of other brewers’ cask conditioned beers. Colin’s 30 years of brewery experience has garnished the firm with many awards, including the ultimate cask ale accolade, CAMRA’s Supreme Champion Beer of Britain, for  Brewer’s Gold in both 2005 and 2006.

They certainly aren’t stuck in their ways, with new monthly beers providing them with the chance to experiment, using new malt and hop varieties and often re-brewing old favourites from earlier years. In fact Brewer’s Gold came from one such experiment. Amarillo is one of their permanent lines but what’s it like?

It’s certainly got the look of a summer beer; hazy and deeply golden with a small, but perfectly formed frothy head. But it’s in the aroma where you can just shut your eyes and make the rain go away. A booming grapefruit smell screams its way out of the glass, closely followed by mango and passionfruit. Show me the way to Amarillo indeed.

The flavour takes the aroma theme and runs with it. A beautiful biscuit base presents a totally tropical taste. Hugely fruity, it gives you a good old fashioned citrus reach around. Balanced yet bitter, it’s a real roll in the grass. Hopheads will love it. The perfect brew for knocking back in a beer garden. Summer beer lovin’, had me a blast…

Beer 166 - Windsor and Eton Windsor Knights (3.8%)

The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry existing in England.

The order is dedicated to the image and arms of England’s patron saint, St. George. It is presently bestowed on recipients from British and other Commonwealth realms; after peerages and is the pinnacle of the honours system in the United Kingdom.

Membership in the order is limited to the Sovereign, the Prince of Wales, and no more than twenty-four members, or Companions; the order also comprises Supernumerary knights and ladies. Bestowing the honour has been described as one of the Monarch’s few remaining truly personal, executive decisions. The order’s emblem is a garter with the motto “Honi soit qui mal y pense,” or “shame upon him who thinks evil upon it.” Members of the order wear such a garter on ceremonial occasions.

Following their announcement on St George’s Day, every 14th June, the Knights of the Garter gather at Windsor Castle, where new knights proudly take the oath.

Now chances are, post ceremony, they release the commoners who are then hunted for sport, before dining on swan and sturgeon and finishing the night lapping lambs blood from a sacrificial alter, but then again, I’m not a fan of the monarchy. What is for sure, is that tonight’s beer was launched on June 14th to coincide with the Ceremony of the Garter at Windsor Castle and was the second offering from the Windsor and Eton brewery.

I last had a beer from them back with beer 68, the black IPA, Conqueror 1075. I described it as, “ a tornado of flavour, tearing across your taste buds.” Read the whole thing here to find out a little more about them. So I’ve been looking forward to helping myself to another of their beers. So what’s this celebratory beer like then?

It’s light golden, finished off with creamy thin Elmlea head. The nose is a pure spritz of summer; grapefruits and lemons are served up with a beautiful spray of hops. It certainly brings a smile to your face.

There’s a bite of biscuit in the flavour and a touch of Thorntons classic toffee and this carries the juicy citrus combo. The hops provide the terroir of a royal garden; earthy and floral. It leaves you with a light and clean finish. And at a lowly 3.8% you could drink a lot of it. A lot.

One will take a case on one’s balcony.

Beer 165 - Brentwood Brewing Company Spooky Moon (3.8%)

It was a simple conversation that kick started Brentwood Brewing Company. Founders Dave Holmes and Roland Kannor sat in a pub and noted, “this pint’s not brilliant - we can do better than this!”

So, after a strenuous few months the brewery went into production on 4th July2006, with an original capacity of 5 BBL. Their first brew, Summer Virgin, was voted Beer of the Festival at the 2007 CAMRA Chelmsford Summer Beer Festival; not a bad start. In 2008 Roland and Dave were joined by Jason Jopson who helped finance a new 20BBL brewery, which is in use today.

They were joined by Sophie de Ronde, who came aboard as head brewer, while Roland’s son, Ethan works as assistant brewer alongside James Wilson who came to the brewery in 2010. This formidable team has helped the brewery grow and triumph in many other beer festivals thanks to their tasty range of wares.

The Chelmsford CAMRA Summer Beer Festival of 2009 was all about Brentwood, and saw them pick up Best Mild for Marvellous Maple Mild, Best Golden Ale for Heavenly Body, and Best Strong Ale for Chockwork Orange.

This was followed up by wins in their first major national awards, the SIBA East Region Competition, where the clocked up two medals.

Their hard working attitude was rewarded in their win for the award for Best Growing Business in the Essex Business Excellence Awards 2010. Quite the accolade for a brewery so young. In a crowded marketplace they must be doing something right. I hadn’t come across the brewery, so gawd bless the random mixed cases from AlesByMail. Do Brentwood deserve all these accolades? Let’s see with a bottle of Spooky Moon.

This is an amber beer with a fizzy and quick to vanish head. The aroma is pretty subtle but there is a distinct caramel nuttiness at play. There are some berries kicking around as well but barely enough to fill a mini muffin.

The flavour isn’t what I was expecting. It’s certainly a solid malt all-rounder, lightly tinged with earthy hops and seemingly a bag of mixed nuts too. It’s a standard balanced affair but there’s also some to-and-fro between the sour berry fruit and the bitter hops, which adds a bit of interest. Another beer that would probably fair much better on cask. 

Beer 45 - Magic Rock Bearded Lady (10.5%)

Happy Valentine’s day! Did you get my flowers?

I thought today’s beer ought to have the feminine touch. A ravishing dark beauty for this, the most romantic of beery days. So, a soft and genteel milk stout perhaps; with its creamy lustre soothing the palette? Or perhaps a smoked porter; the post-coital cigarette of the dark beer world?

Nah. Instead, it’s getting freaky up in here. I’m whipping the top of a Magic Rock Bearded Lady, and I’m going to have my fill of her.

Long a phenomenon of legend and curiosity, bearded ladies are famed for their role in the circus sideshows of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Their condition, localised hypertrichosis,causes abnormal amount of hair growth on certain parts of the body, such as the face. It can be genetic or occasionally caused by the use of anabolic steroids.

The latter can also cause violent mood swings, lack of neck and the need to wear sleeveless t-shirts with ‘Tap Out’ splashed on them. I’m under the impression that my Bearded Lady loved her some steroids because this is an uncompromising, unabashed, burly bruiser of a beer. As Magic Rock admit themselves, “the lady demands respect”.

The bottle is bedecked in Magic Rock’s unique graphic style, but this time they have toned down the colourful palate to something much more sombre and foreboding. This imperial brown stout, with her classy flash of platinum, is dressed for business.

She’s as black as an Hawaiian beach, and even more inviting. With a lustrous mocha hair do, we can be certain that collar and cuffs certainly don’t match on this broad. Her perfume is intoxicating. There’s no escape from her luxurious chocolate liqueur bouquet. She definitely had a double espresso to keep her stamina up and preemptively devoured her half time citrus fruit. You can smell it all as she draws you in, ready to pounce.

I’ve been with her sister a few times in the past, she was a practitioner of the Dark Arts, but this Lady is straight up Aleister Crowley; a great beast of a beer. She tastes as powerful as she looks, her muscular malt immediately putting you in a choke hold. There’s no letting up. She seductively feeds you chocolate-coated coffee beans and ripe dark fruits throughout; her boozy fuller figure leaves you reeling.  

Only when it’s all over, does she reveal she’s a bitter mistress, giving you a cheeky flash of her bountiful hops. And after all of that, you are practically begging for more. Filthy. Just how I like it.

How was it for you?

Beer 21 - Kernel Borefts Rye (7.5%)

I’m tired. And a bit drunk. Having spent the day at the Ouseburn Valley Brewery helping to rustle up their forthcoming Russian Imperial Stout I’m kind of beat. Beer is certainly less hard work to drink than it is to brew. I’ll tell you all about the day later. Drinking for twelve hours in between brewing beer will do that to you.

Like the trooper I am, I’m now home and forcing myself to open the penultimate Kernel beer of the week. Don’t forget, this is for your amusement people.

Located inside a historic windmill in the town of Bodegraven, Holland is Brouwerij De Molen; a multi award-winning craft brewery, distillery and restaurant. Famed for their innovative, short run beers, they are regularly voted one of the world’s best breweries.

Since 2009, De Molen has hosted the annual Borefts Beer Festival. The line up is stellar with the likes of  Mikkeller and De Struise Brouwers in attendance, it’s the ultimate beer geeks’ festival. In 2011 Kernel was invited along and Borefts Rye was the beer brewed for the occasion.

 The darkest beer of the week by far, it pours murky brown in colour. The aroma packs a peppery punch, it has a musky, fruity scent, but is not as expansive as some of the earlier beers.

It has a genuinely complex taste. Around the sweet caramel malt base comes layers of fruit and rye spice, while powerful piney hops resonate throughout. With massive hop astringency and candied fruit taste, it actually is a bittersweet symphony.

Brewed to standout from the crowd at the festival, it’s bold as brass and won’t won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

Beer 211 - Williams Bros. Profanity Stout (7%)

Unbelievably I haven’t reviewed a Williams Bros beer since January when I celebrated Burns Night with their delicious Midnight Sun porter. You can read the review here if you like. I’ve certainly not been going without their beers in the last few months. Seven Giraffes is a firm favourite, as is the deliciously herbal Fraoch Heather Ale. It was that beer which launched them into brewing in the first place, as I explained;

“Scottish brewers Williams Bros started off in Glenbrew, their family-owned homebrew store in Glasgow. In 1988 a customer came into the store for advice on how to brew ‘Leanne Fraoch’ for her family. This 17th-century Gaelic ale is made using sweet gale and heather flowers, and was named after the legendary Gaelic hero Fráech (or Fraoch). In exchange for their knowhow she agreed to share the recipe. Cue much tinkering with different blends of malts and quantities of heather in to order to produce what became their distinctive ‘Fraoch’ Heather Ale.”

Back when I started investing the majority of my student loan in bottled beer, Fraoch was a repeat purchase. It’s deliciously flavoured and undeniably unique. However there is one of their beers that I somehow haven’t been able to get hold of; Profanity Stout.

Finalist in Sainbury’s 2011 Great Beer Hunt, this beer seemed to light up the blogs last year. Everyone I know who has tried it loved it. And yet for me, the beer remained elusive. However when colleague and all-round top bloke @billquaymag, or Andy as I know him, returned from a trip to Holy Island, he brought me back a bottle back. Huzzah!

The beer was originally brewed by Peter and Craig, the ballsy brewing duo who developed the recipe as students at Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University. I can’t wait to see what I’ve been missing out on.

It’s dark ruby in colour with a thin foamy tanned head. The profanity starts with the aroma; shit the bed, it smells great! It’s a three horse race with the roasted malts, chasing spicy hops, followed by dark fruits. It’s definitely going be a photo finish. The trio are showered in sugar, making for a sweet smelling concoction.

And the taste? Well it’s just as good as you all said it would be. Coffee, liquorice, chocolate and toffee apples are what come through strongest for me. It slips down with a subtle smoothness and the finish is delightfully bitter, crisp and floral. The dry hopping has certainly worked its tasty magic, bringing a distinct Black IPA flavour to the party. Profanity Stout? Fuck yeah!

Beer 131 - Founders Red Rye P.A (6.6%)

Opening a brewery is undeniably expensive. Premises, ingredients, casks and of course brewing equipment quickly mount up. So when Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers quit their steady jobs and decided to chase their dreams and open a brewery, it took passion, determination and big bank loans.

Their Founders Brewery was launched in Grand Rapids in 1997. Both home brewing enthusiasts, Mike and Dave have turned their dream into one of the most well respected breweries in America. It wasn’t without its challenges however. Naturally the finances are one thing but their initial unremarkable beers were another. Although well balanced, they lacked the wild flavours and styles befitting a craft brewery. As a result the dream was over almost as quick as it had started.

Taking stock of their shortcomings they decided to raise the stakes and begin brewing the types of beers that got them excited about the industry in the first place, resulting in multi-faceted, aggressively flavoured beers; big in body, aroma and strength. It was an inspired move.

Their gamble more than paid off with Founders growing to become one of the most prominent breweries in Michigan with a 50,000bbl capacity. Their beers have won them legions of fans and plaudits. Influential site BeerAdvocate ranked two of their stouts- the Kentucky Breakfast Stout and Canadian Breakfast Stout- two of the top ten beers in the world as voted by their readers. Ratebeer listed Founders as the second best brewery in the world in 2011 and they managed to bag an impressive four medals at the 2010 World Beer Cup in Chicago.

The Founders family has grown around this simple philosophy: “We don’t brew beer for the masses. Instead, our beers are crafted for a chosen few, a small cadre of renegades and rebels who enjoy a beer that pushes the limits of what is commonly accepted as taste. In short, we make beer for people like us.”

Can tonight’s beer live up to such lofty expectations?

A crimson brew fills the glass. A dirty cream head rests on top, completing the look. It’s scented with an enticing perfume; layers of pine, citrus and earth emanate from the hops, blending effortlessly with rye bread and caramel. Sumptuous.

You are taken on a slalom of taste from the first sip. Sweet brown sugars take you one way, grapefruit hops the other. The flavours are carried along by peppery rye and spice, as your palette ricochets between sweet and bitter, and finally the smooth creaminess tenderly soothes the taste buds. An exciting and memorable ride.

Beer 135 - Big Lamp Brewery Prince Bishop Ale (4.8%)

“There are two kings in England, namely the Lord King of England, wearing a crown in sign of his regality and the Lord Bishop of Durham wearing a mitre in place of a crown, in sign of his regality in the diocese of Durham”

The steward of Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham (1284 - 1311)

County Durham is unique, as for many centuries it was virtually an independent state ruled not by the king, but by powerful Prince Bishops. Back in Anglo-Saxon time one of the largest and most powerful of kingdoms was Northumbria, which extended from the Humber to the River Forth, making up almost a third of the entire mainland of Britain.

During the 7th and 8th centuries Northumbria was a great centre for arts, learning and early Christianity and was especially noted for the great saints it produced like Cuthbert, Wilfrid and the Venerable Bede.  The Prince Bishops had the powers to; hold their own parliament, raise their own armies, administer their own laws, levy taxes and customs duties, collect revenue from mines, administer the forests, and mint their own coins. Today County Durham is known as The Land of the Prince Bishops: a doff of the historical cap to this important period of history.

The Prince Bishops are also remembered locally through what else but a beer- Prince Bishop Ale brewed by the Big Lamp Brewery. The Brewery opened back in 1982 and is easily the oldest micro brewery in the North East. The 80s was a very different time for ale. There was no craft beer revolution, no cavalcade of US hops permeating beers, no thoughtful design and typography adorning bottles and pump clips.  No beer blogs and Twitter. This was a time when the Internet was a thing of Tomorrow’s World.

It started off as a hobby and originally occupied a building in the West End of Newcastle city centre.  Over the years it has slowly become a local success story driven by passion and commitment. Its first beer was the ever popular Big Lamp Bitter which was brewed for The Red House pub on Newcastle’s Quayside. Initially Big Lamp brewed about 10 barrels per week, usually over the weekend, since everybody at the brewery still had full time jobs.

In 1986 they opened the Big Lamp Off License next to the Brewery to help sell some of the beers. The beers were also distributed through tied houses such as the Oddfellows Arms in Haswell and the Wheatsheaf Inn in Felling. Various Fitzgerald Pubs also sold their beers along with other Free Houses such as the Cumberland Arms in Byker.

In 1986 Terry Hanson took on the job as a full time brewer to keep up with the demand. By this time Big Lamp were regularly brewing several beers; Big Lamp Bitter, Old Genie and Big Lamp Blackout. In 1987 the brewery was commissioned to produce a beer for the first Durham Beer Festival, and that beer was Prince Bishop Ale.

After a short period of managing the brewery amongst the existing shareholders the responsibility of running the brewery and associated pubs falls to Lee Goulding and George Storey, trading independently as the Big Lamp Brewers.

Since 1989 George and Lee have dedicated all of their time to improving, expanding and developing the brewery and pubs. Now independently run by the Big Lamp Brewers, it supplies a wide range of traditionally-brewed fine ales to public houses throughout the United Kingdom.

The Brewery moved to its current location in 1996, a former water pumping station servicing the village of Newburn.  This listed building had sat derelict for many years so it was an audacious move for the brewery to relocate to the site. The arduous task involved dismantling the building brick by brick, numbering each one to ensure it was rebuilt correctly. This allowed them to create a unique new setting for both the brewery and their brewery tap, The Keelman Pub.

The brewery has expanded over the years, releasing new core and seasonal beers. Being located on the banks of the Tyne and at the entrance to the Tyne Riverside Country Park attracts walkers, rowers and cyclists alike. The bar is the perfect setting to sit and quaff an ale or three.

Now I haven’t had this beer for quite some time. A few years ago I visited the Keelman only to find them selling Prince Bishop for the paltry sum of £1.20 a pint. What happened next wasn’t pretty. This will be kill or cure for my future drinking of Big Lamp beers.

It pours a hazy golden colour with a now you see it, now you don’t head. It’s a big malt aroma mixed with a kick of grassy hops. It’s not going to blow your skirt up in the fragrance stakes.

To taste there’s a distinct caramel sweetness backing up a floral hop top note. It’s pretty tasty with a smattering of fruit thrown in for good measure. It leaves you with a lasting bitterness and an oily finish. The bottling has killed a lot of the flavour though. I recommend you try a pint, in the early evening sun sitting outside of the brewery. It’ll be cheaper and definitely better.

Beer 97 - Great Divide Titan IPA (7.1%)

It’s not even 10am and I’m drinking a beer. I have some serious drinking to do today at The Brandling Villas Sausage and Beer Festival this afternoon. If I don’t make it back, tell my mother I love her. The beer list is ridiculous with brews from Arbour Ales, Brooklyn, Bristol Beer Factory, Steel City and many more. They also have the whopping Hercules from Great Divide, so I thought I would put myself right in the mood with today’s beer, Titan IPA.

Back in 1994 I had simple needs and was content either watching a pirated VHS of Pulp Fiction or alternating the cassette in my Walkman between Jeff Buckley’s Grace and Weezer’s Blue album. No mortgage, no credit cards and, apart from the occasional bottle of Becks from my dad, no beer.

Around this same time Brian Dunn was bemoaning the lack of great beer in Denver, Colorado. However, he had a strong inkling that the city had the potential for fantastic beer. Brian was a keen homebrewer with a real passion for beer, developed over years of travelling. With his solid business background and acumen in his top pocket he decided to take the leap and open his own brewery called Great Divide.

It would appear that his beery hunch was correct. Great Divide must have an enormous trophy cabinet, as they can’t get moved for silverware. The brewery is a pure thoroughbred having picked up 17 Great American Beer Festival medals and five World Beer Cup awards. Great Divide ranked 8th in Ratebeer’s Best Brewer in the World 2010 and 7th in Beer Advocate’s All-Time Top Breweries on Planet Earth.

Setting up shop in an abandoned dairy-processing plant at the edge of downtown Denver, Dunn began to craft the beers that would eventually make Great Divide Brewing Company one of America’s most decorated microbreweries and play a major part in transforming Denver into a serious destination for beer lovers.

Brian drew his beerspiration from Denver’s urban energy and Colorado’s awe-inspiring mountains. The beers came thick and fast, from the quintessential session Denver Pale Ale, to whopping hoppy brews like Hercules. Great Divide quickly established themselves as the go-to brewery for assertive, self-assured beers, providing the perfect blend of progression and balance.

When Invesco Field, home of the Denver Broncos, opened in 2001, Great Divide’s Denver Pale Ale was one of only three craft beers selected to be sold at the stadium, such is its resonance with the city. Never one to shy away from bold flavours and strengths, the majority of their beers weigh in above 7%. Brian’s unwavering commitment to craft ales is the epitome of what makes Denver, and Colorado, so great.

I first tried tonight’s beer in New York, then again in London’s Rake Bar late last year. Its big flavour immediately transported me back Stateside. Since then Great Divide beers have made a regular appearance at several top drawer North East bars and bottle shops. Their highly stylised labels generally provide a reassuring nod to the quality of the establishment you find yourself drinking it in.

And then came the bad news. In February Great Divide announced they would no longer be exporting to Europe. Stock slowly began to dwindle and it won’t be long before their brews will become yet another US beer we’ll pine for. Tempest gave me the taste for the IPA style so I thought it was time to see another master at work whilst I still have the chance. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Titan IPA.

It pours a vivid hazy amber, accessorised with a thin white head. The giddy bouquet is a sublime double act of malt and hops. Cereal richness balanced against floral pine and spice. The smell transports you immediately to an American bar; I almost feel compelled to put a Dollar bill in front of the glass for the bartender.

It’s sweet tasting, chock full of rich caramel; syrupy and thick. For the hopslap flavour you get, the bread-like malt reins it all in, keeping the citrus in check. Despite the rich taste it’s not the assertive lip-pulling bitter brew you would expect. As with other Great Divide beers, balance is the order of the day.

For a 7.1% beer it goes down quicker than James Cameron to the Mariana Trench. Despite the complexity of flavours it is dangerously drinkable. Goodbye Titan, I hardly knew you.

Beer 29 - Allendale Weizen (5%)


I had a lot to drink last night. A lot. I’m paying for that today. I’m hoping that a heroic portion of fish and chips will cure me of my ills. That, and today’s beer. I was quite taken with the Weizenbock yesterday so I thought I’d stick with something similar but made closer to home; Allendale Weizen. 

The brewery is a family affair, run by husband and wife team, Tom and Lucy Hick. It was set up in 2006 and became the first brewery in the small village of Allendale since 1887 when the original brewery close to due to rural depopulation.

Their first brew was on St Valentine’s Day 2006 and they now supply over 300 pubs, shops and restaurants across the North of England.  Their Adder Lager won overall beer of the festival at the regional CAMRA Newcastle Beer Festival in 2009. Their newly kegged Adder and APA are both fantastic, so it’s time to see how their bottles hold up.

Weizen is an interpretation of a Belgian wheat beer, a traditionally pale brew, spiced with coriander, orange peels and other herbs and spices. It’s a relatively new addition to the brewery’s range and its name was chosen by Paula Walker via Twitter, who bagged herself a 20 litre box of the brew, the jammy bugger. 

It pours a cloudy orange with a strong backdraft of bananas, citrus and spice, however it’s lacking the big foamy white head I was expecting. It smells fantastic, however. I can already feel my hangover running in terror from this hopefully medicinal beer.

It’s finger lickin’ good; a thick bready flavour and would certainly be a winner with Eric from 29 Acacia Road. There’s a tang of pepper that brings a savoury note to the table. At 5% this the antidote to the balls-out Mikkeller I tried yesterday 

It’s light bodied with some prickly carbonation and the finish is smooth, short and sweet. It’s very, good and makes me long for mussels and chips overlooking looking the Grand Place in Brussels. However, on this occasion a chip supper will have to suffice. 

Beer 145 - Avec les bons Vœux de la brasserie Dupont (9.5%)

NB - This review was written after MANY beers in the sun. Great night.

Since 1970, Brasserie DuPont has brewed a very special beer to give as a New Year’s present to their best clients. That beer is Avec les bons Vœux de la brasserie Dupont which translates as ‘With the best wishes of the brewery Dupont.’

As the brewery expanded and grew increasingly more popular they decided to start selling this beer to all customers. Prior to this decision the beer was spoken about in hushed terms, with only a select few had ever able to sample it. To keep it semi-exclusive only a small quantity was brewed and released to celebrate the New Year. People travelled to the brewery to seek it out; as a result DuPont had to make a reservation list, even months before New Year.

With the crisp taste of beer 83, DuPont’s Moinette Blond, fresh in my mind, and the summer sun high in the sky I thought it time to uncage this 9.5% dry hopped beast.
It pours highly carbonated and is a glorious golden hue. A thin yet soapy head completes the look. It smells exquisite; funkier than Morris Day and the Time. The unique barnyard smell is firmly front and centre. Spiced peach and passion fruit erupt out, tropical and exotic.

Dry and earthy, the beer is highly hopped. Juicy fruits cover your taste buds, sweetened with cane sugar. Citrus and spice and all things very nice, the flavour is garnished with a huge helping of coriander. How on earth this is 9.5% I’ll never know. It might be bold in flavour, but goes down smoother than the Red October. A crisp finish rounds off a superb saison.

Beer 83 - Dupont Moinette Biologique (7.5%)

La Brasserie Dupont is an independent brewery based in Tourpes in central western Belgium, ran by the Dupont family, specialising in bottle fermented beers such as Saison, Bons Vœu and Moinette

Brasserie Dupont is a big hitter in the fascinating history of Belgian beer. In 1920, Louis Dupont, an agronomist, was considering purchasing a farm in Canada. To dissuade him, his father Alfred Dupont bought the farm-brewery-Rimaux Deridder dating from 1759. 

Having no children of his own Louis bequethed the site to his nephew Sylva Rose. He, in turn,  opened the all new brewery in 1950 and began specialising in top-fermented beers such as its famed Saison Dupont. This beer, with its fruity and spicy aroma and taste and quinine-like bitterness is seen alongside Jean Claude Van Damme as something of a national treasure. 

Since 1990, some of Dupont’s output has shifted to corner the lucrative organic market, with a recently opened bakery and cheese-making facility to complement their beers. Today they create over 15,000 hectolitres of beer, sticking firmly to authentic Belgian production methods, and now export their wares all over the world. Head brewer Olivier Dedeycker represents the fourth generation of family brewers at Dupont.

I’m a huge fan of their Saison, but tonight’s organic beer, Moinette Biologique, is another of their most popular. It somehow has eluded my Belgian loving palette. That is until now.

It’s a copper colour with an enormous and unshakable fluffy head, thanks to its relentless plume of carbonation. Moinette is sour and strongly herbal on the nose; pear and vanilla with cracked black pepper.

It takes on the flavour of boiled sweets, along with a tart citrus which fades to let sweetness take over. Grassy, juicy hops provide a bitter bite to the earthy mix of flavours. Its leaves you with a long lingering finish. A superlative saison; scrumptious.

Beer 69 - Boggart Rum Porter (4.6%)

The Boggart Brewery is based in north Manchester and opened its doors in 2000. The oddly named outfit is the brainchild of Managing Director and brewer Mark Dade, former head brewer at nearby Marble Arch. Production started in January 2001, with beers quickly appearing regularly in pubs and clubs in Manchester, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria and north Wales.

Amazingly, by September 2001 demand had far exceeded output and a new 8-barrel brewery was established, with a small bottling plant swiftly added a few months later.

Just a year later the company introduced Boggart Brewery Distributions, creating a bespoke cask tracking system. But still one question remains? What the hell is a boggart?!

If you are from the Manchester area you may well know, but others might not be quite so familiar. A boggart is an imp or household fairy. These malicious little bastards spend their time causing things to disappear, souring milk, making dogs go lame, that kind of thing; real nasty pieces of work. They feature heavily in the folklore of the North West.

The Brewery’s intricate wooden pump clips are made from branches taken from Boggart Hole Clough Park. Local artist Mary Dade individually etches each pump clip.  But what is the beer like I hear you cry?

Well I’ve plumped for their gold medal winning Rum Porter. Will it live up to its namesake and be a beastly boggart or a beautiful beer?

This porter is incredibly viscous, dark brown in colour, with almost zero head. It reeks of sweet cereal and rum; imagine a heavily sugared big bowl of Weetabix laced with Captain Morgan’s. The perfect start to the day- for a cards-in alcoholic.

To taste, it’s pure rum and raisin ice cream. Sadly the spirity flavour lacks authenticity and is more Nasty Rum than Navy. Roast chocolate malts provide the backbone, but for me it lacks heft and despite the promising looking consistency on pouring, it feels just too thin.

It’s tasty enough but errs too much on the side of novelty for my liking. I’ve tasted (and enjoyed) this on cask a number of times, but sadly it’s lost some of its impish charm in the bottling process. This beer has definitely been touched by a boggart rather than an angel.

Beer 210 - Curious Brew Curious Porter (5%)

Earlier this week Chapel Down scooped Gold at The International Beer Challenge 2012 for their Curious Brew lager. A fantastic achievement for a brewer barely in operation a year. However Chapel Down is a double threat in the booze world and are probably best known for their range of award winning wine.

First planted in 1977, Tenterden Vineyard now spans 22 acres. Substantial re-planting has taken place in recent years, with Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Bacchus now being the main varieties. In addition, there are new plantings of 72 acres at Aylesford in Kent and 180 acres of vines under contract across the South-East. Tenterden Vineyard is the home of Chapel Down Group plc, the largest producer in the UK.

Their winery has a capacity just shy of 1 million litres and has grown significantly over the years. They certainly have plenty of shiny machines on site but Chapel Down’s core focus is on having excellent grapes and people over acquiring the latest gizmos.

They are one of the biggest vintners in the UK and have recently made the push into beer. Based in Kent, deep in the Garden of England, they are bringing their wine make sensibility to brewing. Their website spiel states, “Curious Brew is a range of three beers that are a fusion of brewing and wine-making techniques.” Their lager is made using Champagne yeast, an interesting addition more usually seen done by established Belgian producers. Perhaps Chapel Down is here to show people how it’s done?

Tonight I’m having their Curious Porter, previously known as Curious Brew Admiral Porter. With all of the back-slapping about their lager surely this should be phenomenal. Fingers crossed.

It’s a muddy brown colour which has an amber tinge when held to the light, it’s finished off with an almost nonexistent head. Fragranced with dark, ripe, red berries, toffee and coffee, there’s a twang of red wine as well, along with marzipan and vanilla.

The coffee comes through more in the tasting, with blackberry the leading fruit. There’s slight liquorice and caramel and a musty oakiness and is finished off with herby, floral hop bitterness. It’s very lightly bodied, not that I was expecting a syrup thick stout to be fair, but a bit more body might help. It’s nice but not quite self assured enough for me.

Beer 185 - Utenos Porter (6.8%)

“Rebellious, quirky and vibrant, Lithuania is Europe’s best-kept secret,” is the description in the Lonely Planet. “Lithuania surprised many when it waded into a David and Goliath grudge match against the Soviet Union, winning its independence just over a decade ago”.

This colourful country is now a part of the EU and a member of NATO. It might be small but it features beautiful baroque architecture, stunning forests and lakes, and of course, breweries.

The main brewing force in the country was Švyturys, a brewery in Klaipėda. Established in 1784, the brewery became part of Memeler Aktien-Brauerei & Distillation after the creation of the German Empire. Plenty of to-ing and fro-ing between German and Lithuanian hands over the years eventually ended after WWII, when the brewery once again returned to Lithuanian control.

Although annexing and ping ponging ownership have become a thing of the past for Švyturys, change certainly hasn’t. Švyturys merged with fellow Lithuanian brewery Utenos alus in 2001 to become Švyturys-Utenos alus. Only two years after the merger, Baltic Beverages Holding came on the scene. Owned by the Carlsberg Group, they bought up the recently unified brewers, taking their portfolio in the geographical region to 19, ten of which are in Russia, four in the Baltic countries, three in Ukraine, one in Kazakhstan and one in Uzbekistan.

It might be owned by a faceless multinational, hell-bent on gobbling up breweries, but tonight’s Utenos Porter is my first dabble with a Lithuanian beer. The Utenos region is known for its strong Baltic Porters and Russian Imperial Stouts. Sounds promising! Big beers, brewed to embolden the spirit of the people from this fiercely independent nation.  Despite changing hands more times than a K-reg Cavalier, I’m hoping they’ve retained their expertise for assertive ales.

I was expecting a rich, dark beer but instead I get an amber, almost brown looking one, instead, complete with a rapidly deflating foamy head. Hmmmmm. It has a remarkably sweet aroma too; rich in ripe cherries, caramel and spice. Zero coffee on the nose. Have they labelled this wrong?

To taste, it’s lacking greatly in the roasted malt and smoky character I was craving. Instead I’m getting bready malts, rum soaked raisins and a lager yeast flavour. The mouthfeel is medium-heavy but has a rather watery, cheap taste to it. There’s a metallic finish, low carbonation, and isn’t particularly smooth on the way down. Malt-heavy, it fights hard to leave a semi-sweet aftertaste, but that diminishes quickly. I was hoping for a decent Baltic Porter but my senses are telling me otherwise.

There’s quite a big hit of alcohol as well, showing off its 6.8% strength. Don’t get me wrong, it’s quite tasty but not a true Baltic Porter. I fear I got the cheap Eastern European knock off version instead.

Beer 182 - Bear Republic Racer 5 (7%)

OK, confession time. I’ve never tried Bear Republic Racer 5. In fact I’ve never had any of their beers. Racer 5 is a craft beer poster child; brightly coloured and strongly flavoured. It’s won over legions of fans who proclaim this to be a benchmark IPA.

Being pretty difficult to get hold of in the UK only increases its allure. A lot of people have seemingly lost their shit over this particular beer. It comes highly decorated from numerous American beer festivals and is spoken of in gushing tones on this side of the pond too. So, as the first six months of Beer366 draws to a close I thought I’d better see what all the fuss is about.

The Bear Republic Brewing Company beers are handcrafted using traditional brewing methods. Their recipes and their final formulations were developed over a period of several years, honed in homebrew sessions. Located in historic Healdsburg, California and founded by third and fourth generation Sonoma County residents Richard R Norgrove, his wife Sandy and Richard G Norgrove, and wife Tami. I’ve not managed to confirm whether the two Norgroves are in fact related, but it seems an odd coincidence if they aren’t…The foursome has spent over 15 years developing the style of Bear Republic’s award winning lagers and ales.

Locally known as “The Bear,” they opened their doors in January 1996 and enjoyed rapid success. Their signature brew Racer 5 continues to fly out as fast as they can brew it. In 2006, a decade since they first opened, Bear Republic was named “Small Brewery Company of the Year "at the Great American Beer Festival. Although they still do brewing at their Healdsburg location, they have expanded their main production facilities to nearby Cloverdale. This move allows them to satisfy yet more thirsty fans in 35 states and 5 different countries.

Up until the last few months this beer was like hen’s teeth. However, as Brewdog continues its bar expansion programme across the UK they are bringing this particular beer to a much wider audience. Was its initial exclusivity in the UK the key to the glowing reviews? Will the amount of sublime IPAs I’ve been lucky enough to sample over the last 180 or so days have ruined me for this particular beer? I have my fingers crossed for a Total Eclipse of the Hop. Let’s do this…

It pours out a vibrant, rich orange. The sweet caramel malt aroma carries the intense hop note like a sedan chair, awash with citrus and pine. It’s delivers a complex barrage of blows but no initial knockout punch. Not yet anyway…

OK, OK, it is very tasty, you certainly can’t deny that. From the first sip it’s all mandarins, grapefruit and lemons; vibrant and biting. The citrus blasts over your tastebuds while the noticeable blast of alcohol warms the palette. For me, the finish is disappointingly AWOL for such a flavoursome beer. Moreish and highly drinkable yes, but in a landscape peppered with so many incredible IPAs these days, Racer 5 wouldn’t feature in my dream team.

Beer 178 - Cervezas Alhambra Reserva 1925 (6.2%)

Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Spain. Built during the mid 14th century by the Arab rulers of the Emirate of Granada, Alhambra looks down on the city from its lofty hilltop location. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the inspiration for many songs and stories, it is probably best known as the setting of the ‘Spain stage’ in the classic Neo Geo video game, King of Fighters ’97.

The magnificent building also provides tonight’s brewery with their name. The Cervezas Alhambra was founded in Granada in 1925, originally situated on the outskirts of the city, not far from the foot of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains. It might have been almost 90 years since brewers Carlos Bouvard and Antonio Knorr founded the brewery, but little has changed in their brewing process, which involves slow, natural fermentation over periods of up to 39 days.

In 2006 Mahou San Miguel, owners of famous beer brands such as, erm, Mahou and San Miguel, acquired Alhambra. With their deep pockets they were able to open up Alhambra’s beers to a wider export market. Today sales seem to be thriving, with tonight’s beer Reserva  '1925’ sitting as king of their beery empire.  An alleged ultra premium lager with a unique embossed bottle, Alhambra describes it as having, “a powerful nose of caramel aromas, full flavours on the palate and a satisfying finish.” I’ll be the judge of that.

It pours a rich amber colour, finished off with a thin white head. The nose is surprisingly caramel-heavy, as per the maker’s description. Mellow malts carry the faint hops skyward. It’s nice enough but still no better than other premium lagers. This beer is definitely writing checks its bottle can’t cash.

To taste it’s pretty uninspired. More caramel is saddled by nondescript hops. Others seem to get nuttiness and vanilla but I’m getting mostly nothing. It’s mildly bitter and majorly uninteresting, apart from the bottle which I really rather like.

Beer 138 - Bohemia Regent (4.4%)
Despite the explosion of new breweries in recent years, there are still plenty that have been open for hundreds of years. Family businesses and skills passed down from generation to generation; it’s a remarkable achievement. However some breweries see your two hundred years in the game and raise you. Some have an almost unbeatable hand with almost seven centuries under their belts. Meet the Regent Brewery.

Not many breweries in Europe have the longevity of the Trebon brewery in Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, which was founded in 1379. Actually that’s not strictly true; the oldest equipment used for the brewing in Trebon was owned by the Canonical order of Augustinian monks back in 1367. This equipment was mentioned in the archives of Trebon, where it says that the richest classes of the time made beer for themselves and sometimes lent out the equipment to the lower classes as well. 1367! Hoe Lee Shit!

The brewery was housed inside a castle; another rarity in today’s brewing word. In 1482 Regent Vok of Rosenberg decided to expand the brewery and build new cellars. However as a love of beer took hold, the brewery couldn’t keep up with demand and in 1522 larger scale expansions of the castle brewery were made.

As the popularity for the beer from Trebon grew, the small old castle could not meet demand and a new brewery was created with the renovation of the Regent’s armoury between the Svinenska and Novohradska Gates where it still stands today. Construction began in 1706 and was completed by 1712.

In 1886-1887 the brewery was pushing out more than 5,000,000 litres a year, a phenomenal amount for the time. In 1888, in an exhibition in Brussels, the Trebon brewery received a prize for “quality beer” from the Belgian King. Royal approval meant Trebon’s reputation spread further and their exports covered large parts of Europe.

The two world wars hampered production, with only weaker sub 4% beer being brewed and many foreign markets were inaccessible. The brewery was then nationalised in the newly formed Czech Republic; controlled by the publicly owned South Bohemia Beer Brewery Enterprises. It wasn’t privatised until 1992.

In August 2000, the brewery was sold to Bohemia Regent. The business name of the brewery, Regent, is inspired by the historic knight Jakub Krčín, who became regent and uncrowned king of the entire Bohemian Kingdom. Krčín was influential at the time Trebon beers were making their mark throughout Bohemia. There are few breweries who can lay claim to over 700 years of brewing pedigree.

Tonight’s beer is their eponymously named dark lager, but will it live up to its legend?

Obviously it pours dark; a rich reddy brown with a short lived, bubbly, off-white head. The aroma is pretty powerful, full of rich malts and molasses, a tinge of grass and a puff of smoke. It smells a damn sight better than most lagers, that’s for sure.

To taste, it’s initially all about the sweetness which pushes back, allowing some dark fruits and a shot of coffee to come through. There’s also a touch of hop bitterness struggling to get your attention. It leaves you with a rich toffee flavour on the tongue. It’s a tad too thin for the amount it’s trying to cram in but it’s certainly interesting to try a beer from a brewery so rich in history.