Tuesday, 23 August 2016

EBBC 2016 - Amsterdam

It was quite late when I arrived home last night, following my trip to the Netherlands, and then this morning it was in at the deep end, and straight back to work. Consequently, despite drafting several part-finished posts on my laptop, whilst at the European Beer Bloggers Conference, I’ve had little time in which to collect my thoughts and come up with something concrete about the last five days.

There’s plenty to write about, and like I say I’ve got several drafts to knock into shape, but after unpacking my case, watering the garden and having dinner, there’s precious little time to come up with an article from scratch. What I will say is I had a great time, in the company of some really nice people, all united by a love of good beer and all things associated with it. Apart from spending time in Amsterdam, I visited two areas two of the country I might not otherwise have thought of going to; and I’m glad I did.

I of course got to sample and enjoy a wide range of different and distinctive beers; the vast majority of them Dutch, and all demonstrating just how far the beer scene in the Netherlands has developed from the dark days when all that was on offer were the rather bland, industrial pilsner-style beers from the likes of Heineken, Amstel and Grolsch.

We visited several breweries, including major players Jopen, La Trappe and De Molen, plus a couple of brewpubs, and yesterday to round things off, I visited two classic Amsterdam pubs, plus another brew-pub.

The conference, of course, was the main reason for us to have been in the Dutch capital, and here we listened to presentations from renowned beer enthusiasts, such as  Low Countries beer expert and writer, Tim Webb, brewery historian, Martyn Cornell, Global Craft & Brewmaster at Heineken, Willem van Waesberghe and  owner of celebrated London beer outlet - The Bottle Shop, Andrew Morgan.
The weather was mixed, with brilliant wall-to-wall sunshine on Thursday, and torrential rain on both Friday evening and Sunday morning. This allowed for a 16 kilometre bike ride on the first day, and getting soaked on route to the station, for our trip to De Molen, on Sunday.

All in all it was a brilliant five day break, made all the better by meeting up with friends and acquaintances drawn from across Europe and beyond. Some more detailed reports will follow as time and other commitments allow.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Amsterdam for EBBC 2016

I’m off to Amsterdam on Thursday morning in order to attend this year’s European Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference. This will be my third such event in a row, and after several hectic month’s at work, it’s something I’m really looking forward to.

Thursday's trip will be my first visit to the Dutch capital in over 40 years, as it was back in 1975, as a quiet and slightly introverted student, that a friend and I made Amsterdam the first stop on our month long Inter-Rail journey around Western Europe. Back then we stayed in the city’s Youth Hostel; a very relaxed and civilised affair, and a complete contrast to the strict and rather regimented hostel we stayed at in Hamburg – the next stop on our itinerary.

This time round I’ll be staying in the four star luxury of the conference venue; the Mercure Hotel Amsterdam City. How times have changed, and I bet this time round I don’t get approached by people asking “Any hash, man?” Even back in 1975, as a long-haired twenty year old, I was far more into beer than funny cigarettes; in fact I could count on one hand the number of times I have indulged in the latter.

Yours truly - Amsterdam 1975
Amsterdam in the mid-70’s was all Heineken and Amstel, but the constraints of travelling on a limited budget with a half-dozen or so countries still to visit, meant beer was something of a luxury, and a couple of 33cl glasses of an evening, was about all we could afford; that and a paper cone full of chips, sprinkled with salt and covered in mayonnaise - I can still picture them now after all these years!

Like many European capitals the beer scene in Amsterdam has changed out of all recognition with over 20 breweries now challenging the hegemony of Heineken and Amstel, plus dozens of specialist beer cafés in which to enjoy them. To guide me, I’ve a copy of Tim Skelton’s excellent “Around Amsterdam in 80 Beers”, but on a wider scale I’ve also got the same author’s “Beer in the Netherlands”; a comprehensive guide to the Dutch brewing and pub scene.

My Dutch experience kicks off mid-morning on Thursday, with the pre-conference excursion to the southern city of Den Bosch – famous as the home of the medieval artist Hieronymus Bosch; painter of those rather disturbing religious paintings depicting hell-fire and eternal damnation!

Our party will be visiting the city for much more pleasant purposes though, as the excursion includes lunch, dinner, a short bike ride, a canal tour plus three private brewery tours and tastings including a visit and tasting at the Koningshoeven Brewery of La Trappe. An evening pub crawl is also featured, for those of us who are staying in Den Bosch.

Typical Amsterdam "Brown Cafe"
After an overnight stop, we return to Amsterdam on Friday morning for registration and the beginning of the conference proper. If this year’s event is anything like the previous two there will be lots of interesting beers to sample, good food to  accompany the beers and, most importantly, some good company, with delegates drawn from all over Europe and North America.

There will be a number of presentations, and discussions, which include topics such as the Past, Present, and Future of Brewing in the Netherlands; Will Takeovers Threaten Diversity in the Beer Industry? Plus The Secret History of Pale Ale. There will also be a Multi-Sensory Workshop on Beer Flavours, plus a session on Beer Photography.

On the Friday evening, we’ll be visiting the town of Haarlem; just 20 minutes away from Amsterdam. The city is not only known for its glorious history, but also for its small community atmosphere, multitude of art and culture and cosy restaurants and cafés.The city's only brewery, Jopen Beer is hosting conference attendees for a tour, tastings and beer dinner on Friday, August 19th at the Jopen taproom and then the Jopen Church in Haarlem.

On Saturday evening, we’ll enjoy a beer dinner hosted by Pilsner Urquell who, for the sixth consecutive year, will be sponsoring the conference. We’ll also again have the chance of meeting with the company’s legendary Brewmaster, Vaclav Berka.

Brouwerij De Molen
Finally, on Sunday, a post-conference excursion will take us to Bodegraven, home of the renowned Brouwerij De Molen for a private tour, tastings, and a lunch.

I’m not flying back until Monday evening, so have earmarked the day for sightseeing around Amsterdam. A visit to the Rijks Museum, to see some of the Rembrandts and possibly a look in at the Van Gogh Museum, followed by a canal trip should just about touch the surface of the city’s cultural offerings, but then a spot of lunch, plus a few beers at a couple of Amsterdam’s legendary “brown cafés”, should round the afternoon off nicely. Then it's back to the airport of the flight home.

There will obviously be lots to write about, and as this time I am taking a laptop, I may manage the odd brief post from the conference; if I can tear myself away from all that beer! Here’s to a successful trip.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

All Aboard

I actually enjoyed the pre-Great British Beer Festival Party, organised by the British Guild of Beer Writers, a lot more than the main event. Held the night before, on the Tattershall Castle, a converted former river ferry moored on the Thames just off Victoria Embankment, the ship proved the perfect setting for this annual get together of beer writers and bloggers.

I travelled up to London straight from work, my train terminating at Charing Cross, which is conveniently just a short hop from the Embankment. I walked down towards the river, boarded this attractive old steamer and found my way to the rear (stern?) of the vessel, which had been reserved for the BGBW event.

There were quite a few people there already, so after checking in I wandered over to one of several beer taps, and poured myself a beer. My first choice was Brick Field Brown 5.4%, a tasty brown ale from Five Points Brewing. I spotted a couple of people I knew, so I went over and joined them. I am not going to list out all the writers and bloggers present whom I either knew or recognised, but a mention should go to Peter Alexander (aka Tandleman), Ed Wray, BryanB, Steve Lamond and Matthew Curtis. Matthew deserves a special mention, as he was the inspiration and driving force behind this year’s event, having organised and set everything up for the evening, in conjunction with the London breweries whose beers I have described in this post.

From memory there were around four self-serve beer stations, each fitted with two taps.  The beer of course was “craft keg”, but was none the worse for that, and the fact the beers were served chilled was most welcome on what turned out to be a rather hot and humid evening.

It was very warm down below, so Peter and I headed upstairs, to the open deck at the stern. From here we could see along and across the Thames including an uninterrupted view of the London Eye, which is virtually opposite where the Tattershall Castle is moored. 

There were plenty of bottled beers available upstairs; all nicely chilled in ice-buckets, and with nice clean chunky tumbler-type glasses stacked in front to drink them from. I was really impressed with the Battersea Rye from Sambrooks, but there were also a number of larger bottles from America, including some from one of my favourite North American brewers, Rogue. Peter had a particularly cloudy beer called Bogan; a collaboration brew between Gipsy Hill and Three Boys breweries, which was described as a New Zealand Pale Ale. He said it tasted alright, but it added a whole new dimension to the phrase “London Murky”!

It wasn’t long before the majority of people from downstairs migrated up to join us. I imagine they either realised it was too hot down below, or they’d got wind of the imminent arrival of some food. This came in the form of beef burgers; “burgers to die for” was how I’d describe them, as they were absolutely scrumptious, with well-cooked tasty beef, plus nice chunky gherkins and tomato. Chips, in paper cups, formed the perfect accompaniment.  Later on, when the serving staff brought another round of burgers along to us, I couldn’t resist grabbing a second helping. My excuse was the food helped to soak up any excess beer!

Towards the end of the evening, some of us went back down below deck, to have a crack at some of the keg-stuff. I enjoyed a very nice Alt-style beer from Orbit Beers, called Neu, plus a smooth and tasty 8.8% Imperial Milk Stout from The London Beer Factory.

I drifted off shortly before 10.30pm and wandered back up to Charing Cross for my train back to Tonbridge. I fell asleep on the journey home; not so much because of the amount of beer I’d drunk, but more from the effects of the busy weekend I’d just had up in Norfolk.

It was an excellent evening, made all the better by the setting, the people, the food and of course the beers!  I would like to thank Matthew Curtis, the Guild and event sponsors, Cask Marque.

Footnote: So why did I enjoy the Guild’s party better than the Great British Beer Festival itself? The answer’s simple; the size. There’s no denying GBBF is awesome - as the Americans would say, but for me the event is just too large, and too busy.

I prefer somewhere smaller and more intimate, and the party onboard the Tattershall Castle was just the right size. The event afforded the opportunity to mingle and socialise, without feeling part of some gigantic merry-go-round. It also allowed me to taste and enjoy some stunning beers, of the sort which just wouldn’t be available at GBBF, as they are served by non-CAMRA approved methods. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think CAMRA do a fantastic job each year in putting on this flagship festival, which showcases the very best British cask-conditioned ales, plus some excellent beers from abroad, but these days I prefer something a little quieter and a lot less hectic.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Trade Day at GBBF 2016

Olympia, shortly after the doors opened
As reported earlier this week, I attended Tuesday’s Trade Session at the Great British Beer Festival. I would not normally be concerned about disclosing freebies but, for the record, I gained free entry to the festival by applying for a Press Pass - something any beer writer is entitled to do. Several CAMRA friends I met up with at Olympia, also gained free admission, by tapping up their friendly local publican or brewery rep, which is what I used to do, back in the day.

I stopped going to GBBF on Trade Day several years ago, purely because it seemed to be a glorified “publican’s outing”, but from what I observed on Tuesday, the event has morphed into much more of a “brewers, their workers and supporters” day out, and that can only be a good thing!

The main comment I would make is that the organisers have got the whole event off to a tee. Years of practice, and years of fine tuning, means the phenomenon which is the Great British Beer Festival is a slick, highly polished and ultra-professional event, which runs like clockwork to a well tried and tested formula. I couldn’t fault it at all. There was plenty of seating; something the festival lacked just a few years ago. There was a huge variety of different food stalls, selling all manner of different foodstuffs - essential at an event like this for soaking up all that beer which people imbibe. There was adequate room in which to circulate and, for those of us who remember the greenhouse effect, back in the 1990’s, from that massive glass canopy at Olympia, air-conditioning! Consequently, customers remained cool as did the beer.

Talking of beer, there was an incredible range of cask-conditioned “real ales” from all over the British Isles, plus a significant number from the United States. There were beers from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, as well as a range of bottled beers. For those strange folk who choose to drink fermented apple and pear juice at a beer festival, there were bars serving traditional cider and perry. In short there was something for everyone.

Prior to attending, I made full use of the interactive beer list on the CAMRA-GBBF website, and prepared a couple of personalised “wish-lists”; porters and stouts from UK breweries, plus a number of Italian beers from the foreign beer bar. In the end, none of the latter were available on Tuesday, but I enjoyed the beers I had chosen from the “dark side”. Pick of the bunch was Prince of Denmark; a strong dark and very complex beer from Harvey’s, which weighs in at 7.5% ABV, The beer normally comes in bottled form only, and is rarely found in cask form.

Whilst on the subject of Harvey’s, the company chose the festival as the launch pad for their new-look corporate identity. Simplistic in nature, yet still eye-catching; the company’s mobile bar was decked out in the new décor with its light blue background and silhouette-like designs. I also discovered that after years of restricting sales to within a 60 mile radius of the brewery, Harvey’s now intend to extend their sales area to cover the whole of the UK. Whether this is a good thing remains to be seen, although I must say the thought of their delectable Sussex Best being served using a “sparkler” horrifies me!

The Harvey's team showing off their new look
So apart from saying I had a most enjoyable day out, catching up with friends whilst sampling some really good beers, that would really be it, were it not for the fact that shortly before 3pm there was a lot of booing and heckling going on in the vicinity of the stage. This was the result of CAMRA’s decision to postpone the announcement of the Champion Beer of Britain award. It’s long been the tradition on Trade Day at GBBF for the results of this contest to be announced, and whilst many CAMRA members were probably aware that the announcement would now be taking place in the evening, at a posh dinner being held at the nearby Hilton London Olympia Hotel, I don’t think that many members of the licensed trade knew about the move.

Consequently there was much dissension, and indeed outright anger in the ranks as the CAMRA spokeswoman charged with announcing the lists of the finalists in each category, but not the overall winners, stood up at the microphone to say her piece. At one point she told them to “Shut up”, as it was becoming difficult to hear what was being said. Fortunately for those who care about such things, the lists were later displayed on a screen, at the side of the stage.

I won’t go into the full details behind this decision here, but there were charges of “elitism” being thrown at the Campaign. The actual reasons for the change are far more mundane, and spring from a desire to combine the announcement of the winners, with the actual presentation of the awards. Previously, the latter did not take place until October; some two months after the festival has ended, so having the brewers present in order to collect their awards at GBBF, probably makes a lot more sense.

Two beers from Marble Brewery - both excellent
Whilst at a personal level, I am totally unconcerned as to which beer and brewery comes out top in this competition, to win such a prestigious award as Champion Beer of Britain is obviously a huge honour for the brewery concerned; especially as it normally results in a rush of orders for the beer. To a point I missed the long-standing piece of theatre which is normally takes place mid-afternoon on Trade Day, and I would certainly not have wanted to be in the same shoes as the girl standing making the announcement and having to break the bad news to that audience of angry publicans. Watch this space, as they say, to see whether CAMRA hails the evening dinner and presentation as a success and presses on with similar plans for next year’s event.

Before summing up, I ought to mention that I didn’t stick exclusively to dark beers at the festival. Much as I like porters and stouts, I reached the stage where I fancied something a little more refreshing; something pale and with a nice hoppy, thirst-quenching bite to it. Lagonda IPA 5.0% from Marble Brewery fitted the bill nicely and shortly after I had a glass of Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier, brewed by Heller Trum of Bamberg.

Sclenkerla, of course, are famous for their dark Rauchbier (smoke beer), but the Helles doesn't contain any smoked malt in the grist. Instead it picks up its smoky character from the mash filter. Despite having drunk Schlenkerla beers many times, at their classic old tavern in the centre of Bamberg, I have never seen the Helles on sale there. The opportunity to try it at GBBF was therefore too good to miss, and I was not disappointed. The beer was pleasantly refreshing, with a good combination of smoked malt and spicy hop flavours, with a character which belied its 4.3% strength. If you are not into smoked beers, but fancy trying one, then this is the beer to ease you in gently. (See post dated 3rd August).

My friends and I left the festival, some time after 8pm, and travelled back by means of the London Overground to Clapham Junction, and then a train to Waterloo mainline. A short walk across to Waterloo East saw me catching the train back to Tonbridge, but my companions decided to adjourn to the nearby Waterloo Tap, for one final beer. Did I enjoy the event? Yes, of course. Will I be going again next year? Probably, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Farewell to Swanton Morley

Last weekend was almost certainly my last visit to Swanton Morley; the mid-Norfolk village my parents retired to, nearly a quarter of a century ago, and the place where they spent their twilight years. On balance they were happy years, and it was only my mothers increasing frailty, in recent years, coupled with my father’s advancing Alzheimer’s, which brought their time in the village to an end. My mother sadly passed away 18 months ago, and with dad now living in a nearby care-home it was time to put the family bungalow on the market and say goodbye to 25 years of memories.

It is amazing just how much “stuff” people accumulate over the course of a lifetime, and my parents were no exception. The younger of my two sisters, who lives in nearby Dereham, had begun the process of sorting things out and slowly removing various items, several months ago and then, shortly before her recent wedding, my son and I went up to assist with the disposal of items from the garage and various sheds.

We filled up three large skips, and also made several runs to the local dump, and to various charity shops. Last weekend was the time for moving and/or disposing of large items of furniture, including beds, mattresses, a sofa, bookcases and shelves, plus a dining room table and chairs. The latter came back to Kent with us, using the van we’d hired for the weekend. The bungalow is now completely empty and looking very sad and forlorn.  It was only whilst looking around the place for the last time, and checking everything was secure before locking up, that the sadness finally hit me. It was the end of an era, and with nothing now to take my sisters and I back to Swanton Morley, it really was time to take leave of the village.

I couldn’t leave though without saying goodbye to at least one of Swanton Morley’s two pubs; so on the Saturday evening, following our return from running various items over to my sisters, my son and I strolled down to the nearby Angel for a bite to eat, plus a few well-earned beers. Fortunately the kitchen was still open, enabling me to order a very nice Red Thai Curry, whilst Matt went for a Chilli-con-Carné with rice and cheesy nachos. Beer-wise, he stuck to Kronenbourg, whilst I set out to sample the pub’s cask beers.

First up was Nethergate Wild Fox (NBSS 3.0); a 4.3% ABV seasonal ale from Nethergate. Nothing special to write home about, but pleasant enough, all the same. This was followed by that old favourite, and a permanent fixture on the bar of the Angel, Hop Back Summer Lightning. This legendary 5.0% ABV golden ale, needs little in the way of introduction, and was in good nick, coming in with an NBSS of 3.5. I was tempted to have another, but I could feel this beer starting to go tp my head, so I slipped back down the gravities to another Norfolk favourite, Woodforde’s Wherry. The latter was definitely beer of the evening and was in almost perfect nick. I scored it at NBSS 4.0, but it could even have come in at 4.5!

I’m pretty certain I found the same with the Wherry the last time I called in at the Angel. It is obviously a local favourite, and whilst it has never been my favourite beer, I could quite easily have drunk it all night last Saturday. I had a brief chat with the landlord before we left. He said that the last hour before the kitchen had shut, was the busiest he pub had been all day (food-wise). I wondered why he seemed so surprised, as surely on a nice warm summer’s day, people are going to want to spend time in their gardens (particularly in a rural area), before wandering down to their local, in the early evening, for something to eat.

He told me that the Angel’s kitchen was tiny in comparison with that at Darby’s; the pub down the road, but the latter is set up to cater for larger parties; whereas the Angel is much more a locals pub, which attracts the odd bit of passing trade. Apparently the Angel is owned by the same people who own the Victoria, at Hockering, just a few miles back along the A47, going towards Norwich. He told me that because the Victoria was holding a beer festival; something I know the Angel does as well.

Mine host couldn’t stop for long, as he still had a sink full of washing up to finish off, but it was somewhat ironic that on what was probably my last visit to the pub, that was the longest chat I have had with the landlord. It was also ironic that the beer was of such high quality too, as it hasn’t always been quite so good.

So farewell Swanton Morley; I know my parents enjoyed living in the village, and I too go away with fond memories of the place. Next time we are up visiting dad, I fully expect we’ll be staying somewhere closer to Norwich; somewhere with the bright lights and shops to please my wife and son, but also a city with many fine pubs. Until our paths cross again then……………………

Monday, 8 August 2016

Busy, Busy, Busy

After a rather frantic fortnight at work, training as joint administrator for a new, computerised document management system, I spent an equally hectic weekend, up in Norfolk, finally finishing the clear out of my father’s bungalow. The task ended just before 8am this morning, when I returned the van my son and I had hired for the weekend, back to the hire company. I’ve now got two rather more enjoyable events to look forward to.

Things kick off this evening ,when I board a train up to Charing Cross, and then take a short walk along the Embankment to the Tattershall Castle; a 1930’s former passenger ferry, which saw many years service carrying people across the River Humber, prior to the opening of the Humber Bridge. The vessel is now a floating restaurant-cum-bar.

The reason for my visit to the boat, is it acting as the venue for the British Guild of Beer Writer’s Pre- Great British Beer Festival Party. This is a well-established annual event which, as in previous years, has been organised by Cask Marque. I went to one a couple of years ago, but unfortunately missed last years. I am looking forward to it, as it should form the ideal way to wind-down after a rather hectic couple of weeks. 

The party affords the opportunity to meet up with fellow bloggers and writers, many of whom will be in London for the opening of CAMRA’s showpiece beer festival, the following day. I also know there will be some interesting beers available; especially as Total Ales writer, Matthew Curtis, has helped organise the event. A full report will follow in due course.

As if that wasn’t enough, I will be back in London the following day, attending the Trade Session at the Great British Beer Festival. Again for me, this will be after an absence of several years. As with the BGBW’s party, I will be producing a full report.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

M & S Smoked Ruby & Other Similar Beers

I popped into Marks & Spencer at the weekend, ostensibly to pick up a few items of shopping for my wife; but whilst in the store I couldn’t resist taking a look at the beers on sale. With always an eye open for a bargain, I spotted this little beauty sitting on the shelf at the almost give away price of 70p a bottle.

M & S Smoked Ruby 4.7%, is a dark red beer, with an intriguing sweet nutty, smoky flavour, derived from the fact the malt used in the brewing process has been smoked over cherry wood. This gives an interesting twist to the classic smoked flavours normally associated with this style of beer.

The beer is brewed by Adnams of Southwold, on behalf of Marks & Spencer, and I recognised it as one I tried a couple of months ago. I liked it back then, and said at the time I would definitely buy it again, especially as there’s plenty of smoke in this beer! So to see it selling at less than a third of its original price was something I just couldn’t resist, and I ended up buying all four bottles remaining on the shelf.

They still had a couple of months shelf life remaining, so I was left wondering was this just a genuine stock clearance or had M&S bought a pup by commissioning a beer which for some people pushes towards the limits of “extreme” beer?

Smoked beer is definitely a “Marmite” beer for most drinkers; you either love it or hate it. Fortunately I absolutely love it, ever since I tried my first bottle of “Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier”, the legendary, world-classic Smoke Beer, from Bamberg in the Franconia region of northern Bavaria.

 This would have been back in the late 1980’s when, for a brief glorious period, Sainsbury’s stocked the beer. Twenty years later and I found myself sitting in the centuries old Schlenkerla Tavern in Bamberg itself, enjoying a few glasses of draught Schlenkerla Rauchbier, poured straight from a wooden cask. I can’t tell you how good that beer tasted, and what a magical experience it was drinking that beer in the inner-courtyard (Schwemme), of this rustic old inn, whilst taking refuge from the intense cold of an early December day. I have returned to Bamberg on a further four occasions, and without fail have always called in for a few glasses (Seidla’s in the local dialect) of Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier.

I described smoked beer earlier as a “Marmite” beer, but I have known people who loathed it on their first taste, but then developed a real appreciation of it over time The Heller-Trum Brewery, producers of this classic Franconian Rauchbier say, Even if the brew tastes somewhat strange at the first swallow, do not stop, because soon you will realise that your thirst will not decrease and your pleasure will visibly increase."

Many other drinkers take to the beer straight away. I admit to being somewhat surprised by my son, who in the UK is a consumer of industrial lager, knocking back glass after glass of Rauchbier, as though he had been drinking it all of his life!

Schlenkerla, of course, is the most famous of Franconia’s Smoke Beers, but rather surprisingly only one other brewery in Bamberg (Spezial) produces the style; and then in a much toned down version. There are several other Rauchbier breweries in the region, but some of the best examples of the style come from outside Franconia, and indeed outside of Germany altogether.

Beer rating sites RateBeer and Beeradvocate, both list dozens of smoked beers, with very few Franconian examples. Most appear to come either from the USA, or from Scandinavia (predominantly Denmark & Norway). Apart from the seasonal variations produced by Brauerei Heller-Trum, I have only had one beer on these rating lists, and that is Alaskan Smoked Porter. This dark 6.5% ABV beer is brewed in limited numbers each November by the Alaskan Brewing Co. who are based in Juneau; the Alaskan state capital. The beer first appeared in 1988 and was largely responsible for introducing the style to an appreciative American audience.

Three years ago, I was singing the praises of another Smoked Beer, in the form of Greenwich Smoked Bock Beer, another beer brewed exclusively for M&S, but this time produced by Meantime Brewery. This was another excellent beer, which seems to have died a death; as after the initial run had disappeared from the shelves, I never saw it again.

Perhaps British drinkers just don’t like the style, and I accept it’s not to everyone’s’ taste and certainly not for the fainthearted. The evidence certainly points to this, otherwise there would be a lot more smoked beers gracing the shelves of off-licences and supermarkets. However, keep your eyes open, as you never know when or where one of these excellent beers might crop up and as an accompaniment for roasted meats, cured meats, strong or even smoky cheese, I can’t think of anything better!