jamie goode's wine blog

Friday, November 13, 2009

Judging beer awards in Leeds

Spent today in Leeds. Itís actually the first time Iíve been to this city, although aside from three nice pubs, I didnít see all that much of it.

I was one of the four judges of the annual beer writersí awards. In case you are wondering, I was the non-beer person on the panel, and as a non-beer person it was interesting to read all the entries, which gave me a snapshot of the current state of beer writing in the UK. (The panel was chaired by Zac Avery, with Sean Franklin and Larry Nelson the other members.)

I also got a feel for some of the hot debates in the world of beer. A recurrent theme seems to be that although CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) has done some good things for beer in the past, they currently seem a bit out of touch and stubbornly defensive of their own particular vision of Ďreal aleí. Another controversy surrounds the brand ĎBrew Dogí, who rather bizarrely created a controversial beer and then complained about it to the Portman group about it, getting it banned. Itís just that they didnít tell everyone that they were the ones to get their own beer banned until much later. This created quite a storm in the beer blogosphere.

I canít give any specifics about the entries (youíll have to wait until December 3rd for the results), but all four of us were very satisfied with the quality of the winning entries. Some decisions were easy to make; others much tougher. Today we will have made some people very happy indeed; others weíve probably annoyed/disappointed a great deal. I know what itís like to be on the other side of awards judging, and no decisions were made lightly.

Judging was at the Cross Keys, not far from the station. The food there is excellent: I had a corned beef hash with a fried egg on top that was close to gastronomic perfection. It was washed down with an excellent pint of Roosterís Leghorn (Sean's brewery). After competing judging, Zac took us on a tour of a couple of local hostelries. Pints of Leeds bitter and Timothy Taylor Landlord went down smoothly. The second of these was consumed in a pub just next to the Tetley brewery. Itís threatened with closure, but tonight the smell of brewing beer hanging in the air was quite intoxicating.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Some crazily good beers from M&S

Marks & Spencer have recently launched a new range of beers. I tasted through a range of them with Sue Daniels of M&S, and I thought they were brilliant. I'm going to go and buy some. Here are my notes on the best, using my special 10-point beer scale! On this scale, 8 is brilliant and 9 is close to perfection.

Spanish Lager (from La Zaragozana Brewery)
£4.99 for four bottles. 5% alcohol. Beautifully savoury, tangy, slightly herby. Lots of flavour here, and a hint of dimethylsulfide to add complexity. 8/10

Belgian Lager (Haacht Brewery)
£4.99 for four bottles. 5% alcohol. Tangy, hoppy, nose. Warm herb and straw palate. Savoury and fresh with lovely depth of flavour. 8.5/10

Czech Lager (Bohemia Regent Brewery)
£1.49, 5% alcohol. Really lovely warm aromatic nose: mealy, nutty, herby. The palate is dense and full with bold sooth textured fruit. Warm and rounded. 8/10

Belgian Wheat Beer (Huyghe Brewery)
£1.99, 4.5% alcohol. Amazing fresh, floral, spicy nose with a coriander edge. Very intense, savoury palate yet it still tastes quite light and expressive. Complex. 8/10

Belgian Cherry Wheat Beer (Huyghe Brewery)
£2.19, 3.5% alcohol. Cherry red colour. Crazy sweet cherry and almond nose. Lovely sweet intense cherry palate. Crazy stuff but utterly delicious with brilliant fruitiness. 8.5/10

Belgian Tripel Abbey Beer (Huyghe Brewery)
£1.99, 9% alcohol. Golden colour. Very sweet, rich, intense nose with herbs and nuts. Rich texture. Almost wine-like with lovely bold honeyed flavours. 9/10

Staffordshire IPA (Marstons Brewery)
£1.99, 5.5% alcohol. Really intense with lovely fresh hoppy characters. Rich and complex with lovely fresh citrus and herb flavours. 8/10

London Porter (Meantime Brewery)
£1.99, 5.5% alcohol. Deep coloured, this is rich and chocolatey with bold, rich flavours. Slightly sweet fruity characters. Bold and more-ish. 8.5/10

Irish Stout (Carlow Brewing Company)
£1.99, 4.5% alcohol. This is amazing. Brown/black colour with an intense roast coffee and chocolate character. Really intense and full with a hint of earthy bitterness on the palate. 9/10

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Monday, September 21, 2009

More Beeer!

Three more nice beers to review, including a lovely newcomer: the Suffolk Springer.

Greene King Suffolk Springer Dark Ale
6% alcohol. A new beer from Greene King. Deep brown with an orange edge. Very rich toffee and malt nose with some fresh citrus notes. Richly textured palate is sweet, dark and fruity. A bold, full flavoured, warm ale. 8.5/10

Wells Waggle Dance
5% alcohol. Brewed with honey. Bronze colour. Fresh, a bit hoppy and with sweet subtly honeyed character. Nicely fresh, this is very drinkable, and the honey isn't too obtrusive. Pale ale style with added richness. 7.5/10

Young's Bitter Bottle Conditioned
4.5% alcohol. Lovely savoury, bitter ale with real presence and some complexity. Rich but fresh with food compatibility. 7.5/10

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Beeeer!

I'm a wine writer, not a beer writer, but I do enjoy beer. And I'm hoping that some of my wine assessment skills (no laughing at the back) are, to a degree, transferable to the realm of ale.

Anyway, here are some beers I've recently tried, with my assessments. Scores are on the Goode 10-point beer scale, with half marks allowed.

Marstonís Pedigree
5% alcohol. Orange brown colour. Fresh, bitter, a bit malty with a nice tangy yet rich savoury personality. Classic full-flavoured style. 7

Marstonís Burton Bitter
3.8% alcohol. Light and fragrant with some toffee richness and subtle bitter notes. Nicely warm. 6

Youngís Kew Gold Bottled Conditioned Ale
4.8%. Hops grown at RBG Kew. Yellow/gold colour. Beautifully hoppy, floral nose leads to a palate with complex, tangy, fresh bitter lemon and herb notes. Just a hint of sweet malt, too. 8

Wells Bombardier Burning Gold
4.7% alcohol. Golden colour. Thereís some tangy bitterness here, but also malty, slightly syrupy sweetness. This creates a balanced, rounded, rather rich textured ale with some complexity. Really nicely poised, combining freshness and richness. 7.5

Old Speckled Hen
5.2% alcohol. Orange brown. A really rich style with sweet nutty toffee and caramel notes, smooth texture and lovely malty depth. It lacks any bitterness. In-yer-face. 8

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Beer and darts and stuff

Well, today was the penultimate day of judging at the IWC. I had another excellent panel, which consisted of Graham Nash of Tesco, Julia Jenkins of Flagship Wines and Alan Kennett of Yellow Tail in Australia. Quite serious, when you consider that Graham is a buyer for the UK's leading wine retailer by far, and that Alan is in charge of 10% of the Australian Wine Industry's crush.

This evening I was planning to have an early night, but I ended up going out with with two good friends from way back - Karl and Richard - and we ended up drinking beer and playing darts in the Ailsa Tavern in St Margarets. This is after I ribbed Joe Wadsack and Nick Dymoke-Marr for their darts sessions in a Ham pub, near where Joe lives. I just thought that Joe and Nick would look the part as darts players, dressed in proper darts shirts. Maybe we should organize a wine trade team darts competition. I also joked with Noel Young that he could pass as a darts player when we were tasting on adjacent tables yesterday, which didn't go down well.

The Ailsa Tavern has a beer festival on at the moment. We tried Pale Rider from Kelham Island in South Yorkshire (5.2%) which was warm, rich and fruity with a lovely hoppy bitterness, and Tribute from St Austell (4.2%), which was richer and maltier but still fresh and citrussy - not showing as well as it should have done.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Not wine, but beer and cider

Not wine, but beer and cider. Research for a Sunday Express column - these four got in. There are lots and lots of good ciders and beers out there, and they're all very affordable, too - unlike wine, you don't pay an awful lot more for the best beer or cider than you do for the worst.

Henneyís Vintage Still Cider
Asda, Sainsburyís, Morrisons, 6.5% alcohol
Yellow gold in colour, this still cider is appley and intense, with real depth of flavour. It tastes of late summer, with notes of apricots, herbs and apple crumble, and is the sort of cider you could serve with food. 8/10

Gaymerís Somerset Medium Dry Cider
Tesco, 5.8% alcohol
Orange gold, with just a little bit of fizziness. This is a fresh style of cider, with tangy, pleasantly bitter apple character and a hint of sweetness that rounds out the palate. Just a hint of tannin, too. 7.5/10

Wells Bombardier Burning Gold Ale
(Tesco, 4.7% alcohol)
Zesty and crisp, this is a golden coloured beer with pleasantly bitter, hoppy notes adding complexity and making it really food friendly. Iím even getting some lemon and orange peel notes. 8/10

Brakespear Triple Bottle Conditioned Ale
(£1.99 Sainsburyís, Booths, Asda, Co-op, 7.2% alcohol)
A rich, complex, malty, toffeed beer with warm fudgey flavours kept fresh by some bitter hoppiness. Thereís great balance here between the richness and the freshness. Quite special. 8.5/10

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Stouts and Porters

Doing some research on dark beers (porters and stout, the latter a form of the former) for my Sunday Express column. I like stout, although I'm probably more of a pale ale sort of guy.

Crazy Dog Stout
£1.99 Sainsbury 6% alcohol
http://www.redratcraftbrewery.co.uk/crazydog.html
From the Red Rat Craft Brewery, this deep brown beer has a roasted, malty aroma and complex, rich flavours of chocolate, coffee and earth. Lots of flavour here. 8/10

Meantime London Stout
£1.55 Tesco 4.5% alcohol
London used to be the home of stout, and this Greenwich-brewed beer aims to recapture the magic of old time London stout. It has lovely sweet, toffee and roast coffee aromas, but in the mouth its surprisingly fresh and dry, with a warm, chocolatey personality and creamy finish. 7.5/10

Midnight Sun
Williams Bros Brewing Co, Alloa, Scotland
£1.71 Tesco 5.6% alcohol
Described as a Ďrich, dark and spicy porterí, this is made from a mix of malted barley, oats, roast barley and chocolate malt, enhanced with some hops and root ginger. An opaque brown/black colour, it has a sweet, spicy smell and rich, concentrated, smooth chocolatey flavours, beautifully complemented with a hint of ginger. Rich and delicious. 9/10

Wooden Hand Brewery Black Pearl
£1.49 Morrisons 4.5% alcohol
This cornish stout is made from malted, flaked and roast barley, with some hops. Itís a concentrated brown colour with distinctive, powerful flavours of tangy herbs and sweet molasses. Itís quite savoury and has a bitter hoppy finish, and would work well with food. 7.5/10
Asda Whitechapel Porter
£1.50 Asda, 5.2% alcohol
Advertising itself as Ďtough but slightly sweetí, this is made by Shepherd Neame. It has fabulous sweet, figgy, raisiny aromas with hints of dark chocolate. In the mouth it is lively, complex and delicious with some sweet fudge notes countered by hoppy, espresso bitterness. 8/10

Dragon Stout, Jamaica
£0.90 Asda, 7.5% alcohol
All the way from Jamaica, this deep coloured stout is sweet, rich and quite delicious. Itís smooth and creamy with notes of coffee and raisins, and itís really quite sweet. You wouldnít want to drink a whole pint of this, but itís very seductive in small quantities. 8/10

Guinness Foreign Extra
£1.50 Asda 7.5% alcohol
Amazing stuff. This is like regular Guinness on steroids. Concentrated black/brown in colour, it has powerful roast coffee and dark chocolate aromas, and intense, rich-textured flavours of bitter chocolate, treacle and iron. Itís sweet and savoury at the same time. 8.5/10
Guinness Original
£1.49 Morrisons, Tesco 4.2% alcohol
A complex, dark coloured stout with an almost metallic savoury edge to the treacly, chocolatey flavours that Guinness is famous for. Finishes fresh and savoury. 7/10

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Beeeerrr time!

Just back from taking my younger son to Craven Cottage to see Fulham play against Middlesborough. 3-0 to Fulham - a convincing performance that owed a lot to Jimmy Bullard's action packed midfield display. He's worth two players.

Anyway, it's beer time. These, opened tonight with my parents, were all pretty good.

Shepherd Neame Spitfire Kentish Ale
4.5% alcohol. Amber coloured this has lovely hoppy, spicy freshness with some citrus notes as well as a hint of toffee warmth. I like the slight bitterness on the finish. A good food beer. 8/10
[Aside: has a typo on the back label]

Shepherd Neame Whitstable Bay Organic Ale
4.5% alcohol. Orange colour. Aromatic, spicy, hoppy sort of nose leads to a nicely bitter, fresh palate. This is really drinkable with a nice spicy, hoppy freshness. 8/10

Brakspear Oxford Gold Organic Beer
4.5% alcohol. Golden amber in colour this is beautfully aromatic and fresh with some sweet, subtly hoppy notes (Target and Goldings hops used here). There's a bit of sweetness here. It's perfectly balanced and really delicious. 8.5/10

Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer Rum Cask
7.4% alcohol. Brown coloiured, this is warm and rich with sweet fudge, chocolate and roast coffee notes, as well as hints of tar and warm spiciness. A remarkable, rich, warming sort of beer. 8.5/10

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Friday, August 22, 2008

At last, the sun

Devon update. After unremitting rain, the last two days have seen the reluctant appearance of the sun. It has been lovely. We've been to the burrows a lot, for long walks with lots of running up and down sand dunes. Today we lunched on the beach, and our pasties were washed down with two very nice beers - Cooper's Sparkling from Australia, and Sierra Navada Pale Ale from the USA. The latter is perhaps a little more complex and full flavoured, but both are really good.

Tonight we are firing up the barbie, and I've made some bread. I guess I was inspired to try to make bread by watching the Hairy Bakers on TV the other day. It's an odd show. A bit like the Chuckle Brothers doing food.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

DeuS - a remarkable beer

One of the great things about beer is that even great beers are usually not much more expensive than rubbish ones. You can get something remarkable for less than £2 a bottle. But there is one notable exception: DeuS. Can you believe it? I went and spent £13.99 on a single bottle of beer.

Admittedly, this is a 75 cl bottle, and the cost reflects that this is a Belgian beer that's then finished off in Champagne, with a secondary fermentation in bottling and riddling. It's incredible stuff, weighing in at 11.5% alcohol and with bags of flavour.

DeuS Brut des Flandres Cuvee Prestige 2007
Rich, complex and delicious, with heady aromas of vanilla, yeast, toast and whisky. The palate is rich and broad with sweet rich-textured toasty, bready flavours, as well as a savour, casky, vegetable soup and sherry edge. Some alcohol evident. Remarkable stuff, and great with food - especially cheese. 9/10 (£13.99)

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Summer beer

Couple of beers with lunch today. You know, beer really is fantastic, and it's cheap, too. Rubbish beer and world class beer both cost about the same. And Britain makes some of the world's very best beers.

Whitstable Bay Organic Ale, Shepherd Neame
Brewed with New Zealand Gem and Hallertau hops. Orange/gold in colour. This is a fresh, savoury style with some citrussy notes as well as a pleasant hoppy edge. There's a bit of spiciness here, too. Deliciously savoury. 8/10

Badger Hopping Hare 'Thrice Hopped'
The 'thrice hopped' refers to the practice of using Super Styrian hops twice during the brewing process, and then at the end adding Styrian Goldings for aromatic lift. This is a warm, complex beer with a fudgey, toffee edge to the honeyed fruit. It's backed up with a spicy, slightly bitter finish. 7/10

Both were around £1.30 from Tesco, which currently has a beer and cider promotion (everything is 20% off).

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Duvel's awesome triple hop

Look, I'm sorry. About all the beer-related posts on a wine blog. It's just that I'm driven by interest, and I want to report here whatever I think is worthy of a plug - and tonight's tipple, the Duvel Triple Hop Special Edition beer, is certainly worthy of that.

This is a Belgian beer brewed with three hops: Saaz Saaz, Styrian Golding and Amarillo. It's fantastically complex with myriad flavours: amazing citrus and spice aromatics; rich, honeyed, spicy, sweetly fruity palate; tangy, herbal, hoppy, nicely bitter finish that goes on for ages.

At 9.5% alcohol you don't want to swill pints of this - rather, treat it a bit like a wine. It's food friendly and can go with a wide range of dishes. A first-growth of beers.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

RTL update and more beer

I realize it's been a while since I gave you an update on our faithful hound, Rosie The Labradoodle. Of course, all the rulebooks say 'never blog on your pets', but I'm afraid I'm going to, anyway.

RTL has been with us a year. There are moments when we wish we'd never got her, but weighing up all the pros and cons, I think we're just about glad we did. She's like another member of the family.

She now barks less. We've been using a bark collar in the evenings - it's a device that gives her a blast of strong-smelling liquid (citronella) every time she gives a woof. I think you can get versions that deliver an electric shock, but that seems a bit cruel and excessive. As a result, she's got out of the habit of barking, which is a good thing, because there are few more stressful sounds than a barking dog. [Crying infants?]

She still wants to eat the cats. No progress there.

We've faithfully given her two long walks a day. This means every morning I have to get up at the crack of dawn, whatever the weather, and no matter how tired I'm feeling (usually very), to take her out. Change is normally something we aspire to but never quite pull off. RTL has forced on me a quite significant change in lifestyle.

She now looks more like a labradoodle and less like a golden retriever. Only yesterday a fellow labradoodle owner came over to me and asked, 'Is she a labradoodle? So is mine'. Having said this, most people just look puzzled when they meet her.

She now sleeps in our bedroom. Yes, I know: she shouldn't. But at least she sleeps, whereas before she was waking us up regularly at 4 am.

So back to drinks. Some more beers this weekend that I enjoyed. Worthingtons White Shield IPA is fresh and complex. Serious effort. Deuchars IPA from the Caledonian Brewery in Scotland is also fresh and complex, but it's an orange ale with a bit of malty richness to counter the hoppiness. Another serious effort. And Grolsch Weizen Premium is also a serious beer with a lovely citrussy freshness and floral aromatics. All three would be good with food.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

A glitzy beer dinner

Last nightís Guild of Beer Writers awards dinner was a fun event. I didn't know what to expect, and felt a bit like I didnít belong. After all, Iím a wine writer with little more than an amateur interest in beer, although there are obvious parallels between what I do professionally Ė taste and evaluate an alcoholic beverage Ė and beer writing.

So I arrive at the Millennium Gloucester hotel and make my way up to the conservatory, where the event is being held. It looks like quite a smart event, and there are perhaps 200 people present. After grabbing a beer from one of the waistaff, I mingle, acutely aware that I know absolutely no one here: evidently, thereís not much overlap between the wine and beer writing communities.

I begin chatting to a random stranger, and then I spot some people I do know: Rupert Ponsonby, who does beer PR as well as wine (he invited me to the dinner), and Graham Holter, currently editorial director at William Reed who will soon be going freelance. I also get to chat with Zak Avery, an off-licence manager who writes an entertaining column in Off Licence News.

Then itís time for dinner. Our table is an entertaining one: thereís Rupert and his merry staff, plus drinks writer Johnny Goodall and another Rupert, Rupert Thompson who runs the Wychwood brewery. I learn quite a lot about beer from chatting to the two Ruperts, and I also learn that Johnny and I have something in common: we are both proud owners of Labradoodles. His is a seven-month old boy. Maybe we should get him together with Rosie, who is just beginning her second season. Johnny paid £800 for his doodle, and it was one of 12, so someone is making some cash here. It could be us.

Anyway, the food is prepared by Brian Turner and his team, and for each course Brian chooses a beer to match. Brian stands up and introduces the food and beer combos in his usual Yorkshire style. Heís quite entertaining, and the food is very good.

The beers work well. My favourite is the DeuS (yes, the final capital letter is intentional, not a typo). Itís a Belgian beer that is matured in the Champagne region Ė indeed, itís a methode Champenoise beer, which comes in a Champagne-style bottle. Itís complex, fresh, zingy and warm all at the same time. Itís 11.5% alcohol and is served in a Champagne glass, and comes with a Champagne-like price tag of £12 a bottle, but itís worth it. We also have a fantastic IPA named Jaipur, and the familiar but lovely Inns and Gunn oak aged beer.

The awards ceremony is mercifully brief and nicely compered, and then itís time for some more beer, before heading off into the night with a belly full of ale and a warm glow.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tired today, but beer to come

I'm feeling sluggish today - a result of staying up late to watch two episodes of the entertaining but increasingly bizarre Spooks, and then being woken up early once again by younger son, who is slightly hyperactive and at age 10 has yet to develop the teenage habit of lying in.

Anyway, I need to shake it off because I'm going out to a dinner tonight, albeit one at which no wine will be served. [Gasps of horror....]

That's because it's the British Guild of Beer Writers Annual Dinner, at the Milennium Gloucester Hotel, at which we will enjoy a beer banquet devised by Brian Turner. I'm not a member of the BGBW, but have been invited as a guest. I do like beer, though, and have written about it occasionally - although I am not an expert, just an interested consumer. I have no idea how many people will be there, but I'm looking forward to it.

[Pictured is the view from my window about 20 minutes ago. I know it's probably a bit childish, but I still find rainbows very beautiful.]

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Surrey Hills and some wine

I'm slightly worried that with all these accounts of walks in the country en famille you are left with some picture of domestic idyll chez Goode. Let me correct this notion. When we announced to the boys this morning that we were intending to head off to the Surrey Hills for a family walk, there was severe rebellion in the ranks.

Not surprising, because the slightest parental request in our house is usually treated as fighting talk. For some reason, 'Would you like to come off playstation now, because you've been playing it for 2 hours and you need to eat lunch', is interpreted by elder boy as 'Step outside now'; it's not much better with younger son.

After some negotiation, we managed to set off for one of my favourite excursions, The Holmbury Hill Walk. The best bit about it is that half way round there's a decent pub where you can lunch. Fortified by a couple of pints of Ringwood, and encouraged by the half-decent weather, we had a lovely walk. Even though the kids had considered a long and painful death to be a better option than a family walk before we'd left, once we were there they enjoyed it too.

This evening, three wines sampled. Asda's Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2006 is just what you want from an inexpensive Italian red: it's pleasantly tart and light, with plum and damson flavours. Torres Gran Sangre de Toro 2003 is nicely dense, but has a little too much sweet vanilla-scented American oak for my liking: they should lose some of the oak, use a bit of French rather than American, and aim at fruit intensity. The best of the evening was Chateau Clauzet 2004 Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux. This is quite serious claret. The dark fruits nose has a bit of spice and earthiness. The palate is nicely dense with focused black fruits with good tannins and a minerally undercurrent. This is a substantial, savoury, spicy wine with fresh fruit and well judged oak. A really nice claret. 88/100

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A day of family stuff

Took a day off today, to spend with the family. Fortuitously, it was one of the few rain-free days we've had over the last couple of months. It felt like summer.

We started off at Box Hill, near Dorking in Surrey. It's a beautiful spot, and one we return to frequently. A bit of gentle hill walking on a mostly-sunny English summer's day is hard to beat as an antidote to stress. From Boxhill you also get a great view of Denbies Wine Estate (below).

We then lunched at the Percy Arms in Chilworth, which has a nice garden. Greene King IPA and Ruddles Orchard were the accompaniment. This was followed by a visit to Mercedes Benz World at Brooklands, which the kids quite enjoyed. It's like a three-storey car showroom on a scale you've never seen before, with several attractions thrown in. It's free, and the kids really enjoyed sitting in some of the sports cars. You can spend a lot of money on a Mercedes. Me? I'm pretty happy with my Mazda 6 Diesel Estate, which has performed wonderfully over its first 14 months.

Then this evening it was off to Cineworld to see the latest Harry Potter film. It's good - as good as this sort of film can be. I'd rate this alongside number 3 (which incidentally had Michael Seresin, owner of Seresin winery in New Zealand's Marlborough region, as filmaker) as the best of the series. Imelda Staunton is a brilliant Dolores Umbridge, Filch is once again fantastic (especially when he's atop an implausibly high and shaky stepladder hammering Umbridge's edict no 113 to the wall), and there's a spooky, rather gritty edge to the whole film. But the problem is that by this stage in the series Rowling's books had become very fat indeed, and so compressing them into a single film means that there's not much time for character development or narrative - just action. It's hard to see how the next two films can develop the series, save for becoming 'darker', but then part of the appeal of Potter and his merry chums is magic and fun, and the lightness and childish delight is in danger of being squeezed out of this series.

Two wines. Calvet Reserve Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 Bordeaux (£6.99 Sainsbury, Waitrose, Co-op) is quite dense, dark, spicy and tannic - it tastes a bit like a Madiran, with firm, dark structure, blackberry/raspberry fruit and good acidity. Not terribly refined, but a good food wine with lots of savoury stuffing, and better than you might expect from Bordeaux at this price. 84/100. The second is Graham Beck Brut Rose 2005 Methode Cap Classique. This South African fizz is a pale salmon colour with lovely delicacy and poise. There's a smooth texture here, along with freshness and brightness. This is a really well made fizz that is fine for drinking on its own, but which would do a good job at table, too. 86/100 (UK importer Bibendum Wine.)

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Wild ale and theme parks

A sort of odd blog post today. A hybrid.

First, a note about a rather good beer I'm drinking. It's Wild Hare from Bath Ales, and it describes itself as an organic golden pale ale. Slightly murky brownish/gold colour. Extremely fresh, hoppy and bitter, which I love. It's as refreshing as a cold lager but much more flavourful and complex. There's a citrus freshness here, together with lovely hoppy bitterness, and it counts as my current favourite bottled beer. £1.70 from Asda.

Second, a blog post I wrote yesterday but didn't post until today:

Iím writing this sat at a table in Burger King, in Thorpe Park. Iíve brought my elder son and three of his friends here for elder sonís birthday treat. So Iím here for 7h 30, which is OK because Iím not going on any rides and the nine-cell battery on this laptop has 89% of power left which apparently is enough for 7 h 39 minutes. Why Burger King? Because itís the only place with a seat thatís serving coffee (of sorts). There is a Cafe Nero here, but for some unexplainable reason it is closed. Some more observations. Thorpe Park is Chav heaven. Iím quite an open minded guy, and I like theme parks generally. Loved taking the kids to LegoLand and Eurodisney because they were both done so well. Thorpe Park, in contrast, is hideous. Itís crassly commercial, of course, but worst of all itís ugly. Thereís no beauty here. Thereís none of the creativity or imagination that the best theme parks have. Thereís no sense of magic. It all focuses on the lowest common denominator.

The rides are all extreme, for people whose brains are so atrophied by constant immersion in popular culture, and whose souls have been numbed and bloated by modern living, such that the only stimulation that will reach them is being centrifuged at 5G for four minutes on a Thorpe Park Ďattractioní.

Lunchtime is approaching, so I may have to vacate my seat as the noise levels rise to a crescendo and the smell of fast food becomes overpowering. Iím meeting the kids at 12.50 for lunch. Donít get me wrong, you can have fun here, and I think my boy will have a great day with his friends. But I hope that by the time heís 18 he may have developed enough of an awareness of beauty and ugliness that he will choose something else for a day out.

My expectation is that by 6 pm Iíll be high on caffeine (having consumed regular cups of coffee such that I donít get expelled from my various writing spots) and have got a fair bit of work done, while still being a good dad because Iíve given my son freedom to have fun without the presence of his embarrassing parent. My slight worry is that by standing out from the crowd Ė I think Iím alone in coming here to work on a laptop Ė Iíll be expelled from the park for being a weirdo. Theyíve probably already got someone in the CCTV room following my every movement.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Where's the wine gone?

I really should plan my blogging better. Readers will be wondering where the wine has gone, with all this talk about beer, cider, dogs and holidays. The thing is, I reckon blogging has a more genuine voice if it is done spontaneously, in the moment, rather than being systematically planned, with entries lined up in advance.
I'm also more keen on single user blogs, although this makes blogging difficult for organizations who say 'we must have a blog', but then find that their people with the ability to make interesting comments are too busy to blog frequently enough to make the blog work.
Their solution is to have a multi-author blog, but I've rarely found one that works - the strength of a blog is that it is a single voice. You have a connection with the author that is hard to maintain across several authors. Anyway, here's another post about beer.

Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted Blond Beer, Alva, Scotland
Apparently, this attractive beer is made with three hop varieties: the aromatic Hallertau Horsbrucker, the spicy Challenger and a late hopping with Styrian Goldings. It's a pale colour and has lovely bitter, slightly zesty flavours. It's nicely savoury and hoppy with a pleasant rounded mouthfeel. I like it a lot. Available from Waitrose for the usual sort of beer price (£1.69? £1.89?).

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Bank holiday boozing

My twin sister, Anne, her husband Dominic and their two nippers came to stay for the bank holiday weekend. We had a really good time, helped by the fact that our kids and theirs got on very well. Yesterday we headed up to London, spending a couple of hours at the Imperial War Museum and then heading over to Kensington Gardens for a picnic, lubricated with some Lindauer fizz. They live just round the corner from Trent Bridge in Nottingham, so we'll try to arrange a trip up there to correspond with a suitable game (we're talking cricket here). Dominic still hasn't quite forgiven me for taking him to see City play at Notts County (we're talking football now) several years ago when City were travelling the divisions. He's a rugger man, and so wasn't really prepared for the experience of being in the away end with the hardcore City boys. If I remember correctly we drew that one 1-1, with Goater getting one of his three yard specials to equalize and the city captain getting sent off quite early on.
Some nice wines over the weekend, of which my favourite was Henschke's Louis Semillon 2005 Eden Valley (£13 Waitrose). It's complex, tight and minerally with just a hint of struck match reduction and some richness as well as the lemony fruit. Stylish stuff.

We also had a bit of an impromptu beer and cider tasting, including a really weird Marzen Schlenkera Smokebeer from Bavaria that smelled like salami. I really enjoyed the Aspall Dry Premier Cru Suffolk Cyder, which is fresh, light and precise with zippy acidity. Almost Champagne like. Their website is www.aspall.co.uk, and you can get it in Asda and Sainsbury, I believe.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

beer... and more cheese

Big lunch here chez Goode today, with a number of friends, including our chums who've just returned from a month in Aus. They bought with them a bottle of De Bortoli's Gulf Station Pinot Noir 2005 (Oddbins) from the Yarra, and it was really nice. De Bortoli rock at the moment - there are some great wines coming from their Yarra operation. I'm in the process of writing up my report on a visit there.

Two beers and two cheeses tonight. The cheeses were English: a Colston Bassett Stilton and Keen's Farmhouse Cheddar. Both were really lovely, with the deliciously rich, creamy Keen's winning first place in my affections. While the Colston is impressive, I'm still struggling a tiny bit with blue cheeses.

On the beer front, Sierra Navada Pale Ale really works for me. An orange/brown colour this has a complex fruity, spicy aroma with tangy citrus notes, and in the mouth it's hoppy and spicy with lovely balance. Brilliant, and widely available (Tesco, Sainsbury, Waitrose, Morrisonís, Co-Op, Boothís). Another enjoyable beer in a similar style is the Proper Job IPA from the St Austell Brewery in Cornwall. This has a lovely citrus and honey nose with a warm malty note, and in the mouth the sweet, spicy fruit is backed up by nice hoppiness. It's a great food beer, and it's available from The Beer Club of Britain.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

London murders

Had an enjoyable and rather different Friday night. Fiona and I went on a murder mystery walk through the legal district of London, which was hosted by a friend of ours, Steve Newman (he's pictured here in front of Samuel Johnson's house).

He's an actor and walks like these are his current business. We were trialling a new walk, and it was really well done. Each participant is assigned role to play, and you gradually get to know more information about your role through the course of the evening. By chatting to the other participants, mainly during the regular pub stops, you all try to identify the murderer.

An additional facet of the evening is that the walk takes you through some highly interesting, lesser known bits of town - Steve spins a wonderful story that combines the plot with the various landmarks - even the pubs we stopped at had historical significance. It was a jolly crowd and I think we all had a lot of fun, fuelled by pints of Timothy Taylor's Landlord, Fuller's London Pride, Youngs Winter Warmer and a Samuel Smiths. This sort of event would be great for teambuilding, for example, and I'd be happy to put any interested parties in touch with Steve.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Weekend away

We've spent a lovely weekend visiting my parents in Suffolk. They recently moved to Lidgate, home of famed gastropub 'The Star' - where I had an enjoyable couple of pints (Green King IPA) and a game of darts with my father last night. We visited Ickworth House on Saturday and today we went to Clare Castle Country Park (pictured - the railway station, now disused). It's nice to get away, even just for a couple of days.

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