The best kind of book review, one which involves beer!

Sam Calagione is the owner of Dog Fish Head Brewery.  He was completely unknown to me before the other day, as were his beers.  We don’t get many Dog Fish Head beers over here in Blighty.

I saw the book as highly rated on some generic online purchasing website… ok Amazon and seemed like an inspiring read.  The book is called ‘Brewing up a Business‘ (probably should have mentioned this in the introduction).  Anyway, Sam charts his story of how he created one of the first Craft Beer breweries in the World.  If your British, this means Dog Fish Head was one of the preeminent Craft Breweries in the USA ergo the world.

It is an inspiring story due to the way that Sam set out to be different.  Not only did he buck the trend for mass produced lager and created the first Brew Pub in the State of Delaware selling ‘off centred beer for off centred people’.  He who dares wins.

What is the most incredible thing about Sam talks about the way he grew the business focussing on his passion for beer, local and fresh produce and doing everything he can to ensure the maximum taste and experience for the customer.  Looking back on the book, it is clear to see that whether he knows it or not (and just chooses not to state so explicitly) he has successfully inspired, or at least embodies the whole craft beer movement across the world.

This is what is so great about the craft beer industry.  Pushing the boundaries of what has come before, developing unique and interesting flavours for the benefit of the consumer using the best quality ingredients available.  It is progressive, ‘off centred’ and enriching.

The book is packed full of advice from all aspects of business but it poignantly ends focussing on the ideal of Goodness In Business, or as he explains ‘treating others as you would wish to be treated’.  As my friends at @happystartups would concur, happiness as well as profits can coexist in a business model.  To quote Sam Calagione himself:

‘the exploration of goodness – generating it, encountering it, sharing it, acknowledging it and celebrating it – is what we are all about and from what I have seen at so many other small companies we have worked closely with, or admired from afar, it is at the heart of any entrepreneurial success’.

If you like beer and agree with the above, you have to give this a read!















goodness in business treat ppl as you would wish to be treated




What I learnt from this years #GBBF

So the Great British Beer Festival came to town last week. Exciting stuff! I had been before but this time I felt like I was approaching it with a little more tact and knowledge and it was all the more enjoyable for it.
Here follows a note for the uninitiated or those wanting to get the best experience from the day.
Find some friends interested in drinking beer. You should know one or two.
Do attend during the day if you can. I went this year after work and I felt a little rushed trying to get through the beers I wanted to enjoy and not chug down prior to last orders.
Locate a table or any flat surface  with chairs surrounding it. This may require imagination, flattery or bullying to acquire this but has obvious benefits.
Create a beer fund. Get your friends to pool cash together (£10 or £20 in the pot to kick things off is plenty).
As a group, work through the brochure to browse the beers in each section that you want to try. This avoids the awkward situation of flapping around trying to choose a beer when faced with an abundance of unpronounceable varieties. Also itself useful in avoiding the glare from the large impatient bloke behind you in the queue and the ‘tuts’ from other elderly bearded gentlemen watching on.
You and your chums should try to purchase a half or third of different beer each from each station so you can each sample one another’s beverage. This means you try numerous beers from each area. Its amazing what you discover you like in beers you wouldn’t usually order.
Bring out your inner beer geek by chatting and conversing over the beers you are trying. This will help build your vocab and learn to express yourself verbally when describing what you are tasting.
Pork snacks and pies are an ideal accompaniment to beer. Fact.
Try to wash your glass out regularly or exchange it for a fresh one, especially after sampling beer which pongs heavily of smoked German sausage otherwise this will seriously impede your ability to smell anything else poured into said glass.
Award winning beers will sell out fast, this is fine though because these are just a few people’s opinions. Ask the bar staff volunteers to recommend you an alternative, they have taste buds too in most cases.
Plan your route home in advance!

Copenhagen Exploration

We Brits are spoilt and lazy. This is not a character assassination of the general public but what I'm talking about here is how lucky we are to live where we do. We are spoilt by being enviably located geographically in the centre of the world, Europe is merely a train ride away and English is (thankfully) the adopted spoken language of the world meaning we can venture where we like without scrabbling around for a dictionary just to get a taxi home. The ease with which we can explore Europe is taken for granted and in my experience rarely fully exploited. This is why I embraced the opportunity to explore Copenhagen for 2 days with someone I barely knew! (I won't explain the context here). 

The twitter community urged me to check out the Mikkeller Bars if i was in search of the best local brews. These guys have 2 bars in Copenhagen serving beer from a plethora of wall mounted American Style taps, most of which is brewed in house but they also offer guest beers in tap. 

Clearly the bars have been cleverly designed from both the server and the consumer's perspective. The concept seems simple, offer an enticing, 'cool' and convivial atmosphere to enjoy drinking good beer. This is delivered through clean interiors, communal tables and very informative staff who speak flawless English of course. 

We worked our way through a large number of pales and IPA's sticking to the Mikeller beers (when in Rome...) such as the simcoe and citra.
chips and drinks

chips and drinks

For me, the absolute stand out king was the Sorachi IPA using Japanese hops. This was an absolutely delightful combination of sweet candy almost like candy floss, hints of fudge but still with a nice refreshing hoppy feel. Id never tasted anything quite like this and I'm still dreaming about this stuff! 

The Mikeller and Friends bar is the larger of the two and had around 40 taps serving a huge selection of inventively named beers. The staff were constantly updating the chalk board with the names and numbers of the beers as the barrels were drained and freshly replenished.
Chalk boards and helpful staff!

Chalk boards and helpful staff!

There were at least four or five different IPA's, stouts, pale and amber ales available to those wanting to move through the styles horizontally or vertically. Go and spend a few hours in either of the bars, enjoy the ambience and get chatting to some locals. This is Copenhagen. 

Clearly any visit to Copenhagen would not be complete without a visit to the home of the beer that the Danes love so much 'they hate hate to see leave'. You cannot escape Carlsberg when in Copenhagen and the Brewery Tour is a continuation of the Danish love affair. The visitor experience centre not only contains every conceivable Carlsberg marketable item but they have also amassed the largest collection of beer bottles in the world as certified by Guinness Book of World Records. Set aside a few hours for the tour if you are interested in brewing. I'd have liked to do the guided tour if I'd known about it in advance.
Worlds biggest collection of bottled beer

Worlds biggest collection of bottled beer

Copenhagen itself was a great city, friendly people, picturesque and walk-around-able if you prefer to just go exploring. It is also clearly very trendy with good bars and is undergoing a good deal of gentrification turning some of the less desirable areas into a city playground for the young Danish Hipsters. If you find yourself there, make sure you pay a visit to Christiania. This is a fascinating 34hectare self run community which proudly proclaims its independence from Denmark and the EU. Christiania seems to function harmoniously and efficiently with its own laws and welcomes tourists assuming they do not embark on taking photos on their smart phones or SLR's. Surrounding the meandering and haphazardly formed and reclaimed neighbourhood is also some beautiful landscape to enjoy. Aside from 'Pusher Street' where soft drugs are openly sold there are numerous cafes and bars to enjoy a few cold ones and soak up the hippy vibe. 

Why not use beer as an excuse to get over to Europe? You'll find Copenhagen is great place to explore. I'm finishing this here before I sound too much like a travel brochure.
Not a travel blog

Not a travel blog

Thanks for reading

Well worth the Cue‏

I can safely say The hype that has been around Pitt Cue for the past 12 months is most certainly valid. After hearing about it some time ago I’ve been wanting to visit to sample their inventive BBQ menu served just off carnaby street. A few times I have attempted to go my companions have been put off by the necessity to queue, but in fairness I didn’t find it too much of an inconvenience when I finally got round to it. Arriving at around 6.30pm on a glorious summer evening probably made it a more pleasant experience and after chatting to other patrons waiting patiently in the line, the queue ticked along happily enough. 
Once inside the small bar area (After about 45 minutes) you can order from a decent sized drinks menu specialising in cocktails, whiskey and a few decent beers. 
I was delighted to see they had Kernal Brewery’s Pale Ale, a brew I’ve read a lot about and have been yearning to sample. I absolutely loved the fruity nose, bursting with flavour. I could have happily spent the evening with the glass glued to my upper lip! Trying to single out specific smell was tricky but I identified a type of summery-fruity-sweetness which i can only match to the lychee fruit. It had a lovely bite to taste and but slipped down with a pleasant smooth finish. 
ImageThey also had ‘Whatever’ on tap which was described as a red ale brewed for them by the Meantime Brewery. For me this was a little bland. I Struggled to pick up much from the nose, to taste it was slightly bittery sweet without delivering much oomph or distinct flavour. I guess you could describe it as a friendly drinkable ale but lacked the punch I am looking for a beer at present. 
Once we were ushered downstairs to the restaurant I couldn’t get over the size of the place. Literally tiny with only about four tables! The food was described to us in mouthwatering detail by the waitress leaving us wanting every dish! I went for the Ox Cheek special which we all agreed was the best of the lot. Succulent, soft with huge flavour enhanced by juicy fats which had melted into the meat. It was so tender it was practically falling off my fork on its short journey from table to mouth.  I ordered the bone marrow mash side to go with the pickled cucumber garnish which all set off beautifully against one another. The sharpness cut nicely through the richness of the cheek and creamy marrow mash. My other Kernal Pale Ale was also a nice fruity accompaniment to the dish. 
We probably didn’t need the cheeky additional home made sausage we ordered but it was a darn tasty sausage. Warm and smoky like a chorizo, very ‘naughty’ as my friend Ed described it! 
Despite the portion sizes not being large to look at, We all left completely stuffed full and very content having completely forgot about the minor inconvenience of the queue to get in. Well worth the trip for some amazing BBQ treats!

Real deal at Crown and Shuttle

Harbour IPA

Harbour IPA

Harbour Amber Ale

Harbour Amber Ale

Finally the closure of the soulless Broadgate Circle drinking establishments in the city of london has forced local city types to venture more than 20 yards to quench their thirsts. The lack of ‘convenience’ has finally convinced (read forced) some to expand their horizons to such places as The Crown and Shuttle on Bishopsgate. It is marvelous to see a pub pouring a variety of local ales (meantime on draft, hackney brewery as well as a host of other cask and bottled beers) to city folk. Not that this is unusual, but clearly the choice of ales, fantastic smelling food van and huge kitsch beer garden has convinced many to flood here for after work drinks, and this place really hits the spot.

I was looking for something new so tried the Harbour Brewing Co Amber Ale (4.4%) which had a sweet nose complemented with a little spice to taste. Fizzy and drinkable like lager but with still the flavour that  a lager drinker could appreciate.  I could certainly taste the bitter after, giving it a well rounded flavour. The caramel it advertised on the label was not quite evident enough on my untrained palate.
Of course next up I had to plump for the IPA (5.2%) from the same purveyors. For me this was much more what I was after…. Filling your nose and palate with big hopy IPA flavours. I can see now that these flavours are what I’m about at the moment.  It was lovely but the flavour mellowed out a little as the drink heated up.
From here on in the Brooklyn lager seemed to dominate. This served as a perfect measure of how my tastes have evolved since I was drinking this stuff in New York back in 2009/10. It was certainly a lot mellower than I remember from back then!
Things got a bit more loose henceforth with shots and spirits more forthcoming but the Crown and Shuttle evolved with it. Bar staff seemed knowledgeable despite the occasional beer served in a warm glass. Great pub which combines east london character with good after work refuelling. And not just your usual overpriced eurolager.

Craft Beer Co Field Trip

craft beerThe London Food Tech Meetup was scheduled tonight at The Craft Beer Co in Angel. This is a 'craft beer pub specialising in small batch hand crafted beer'.... apparently. Truth be told it does actually sell a huge range of beer and I was impressed with the bar staff's ability to judge who to serve next... Extra points for them. They were also able to recommend me a good IPA (Sound Wave by Siren Craft Brew, 5.6%) followed by a Wit (Gentlemans Wit, by Camden Brewery, 4.3%). 

I was loving the fact that I was in a true beer drinkers pub. I knew this when a gentleman came in and asked for a particular beer and upon hearing it was not available until next week, he promptly left! The two kids behind me ordering half pints with obvious snobbery had clearly graduated from alcho-pops at an early age.  

I started with the IPA simply because I knew what I was ordering and to avoid any awkwardness over not knowing what to order due to the overwhelming choice of beverages. It was big in orange flavour and very pungent orangey aroma. To taste, it was strong and tangy. Not sure whether my lack of food had anything to do with it but it slipped down well and certainly felt like I'd had a few more than a single pint! 

With my new found interest, the Gentleman's Wit was my first knowingly ordered Wit beer. All Wits will be judged against the benchmark of this smooth but sour beer. It was very cloudy and Lemony as well without being too lemony bitter. Definitely similar to a hoegarden although nicer than I remember hoegarden being! It was a good refreshing summer beer. 

Met some great people involved in a number of interesting food/tech businesses in london. Olly, who started his own energy bars with his last £10 has inspired me to brew my own beer. I think that's a cool project > learn, create, develop, sell? Parents may have to clear some space from the garage! 


Tonight I was drinking….

Love midweek days off! Gave me a chance to work on my golf swing, shop for some ingredients for supper and purchase a few ales for the evening.

OK so Kedgeree is not your average dish for supper but the haddock in the fridge inspired me to cook this for the first time.  So tonight my focus was on finding the most interesting domestically brewed ales from Tesco which I had not tried before.

I was pleasantly surprised by the choice on offer at Tesco and the way they arranged their beers shelf by shelf, in terms of flavour.  In the end I plumped for:

Brew Dog Punk, IPA, 330ml 5.6%

Boilermaker, Welsh Whisky IPA, 330ml 6.5%

St Peter’s, Ruby Red Ale, 500ml 4.3%

Old Growler, Robust Superior Dark Beer, 500ml 5.5%

Ok so I have had Punk IPA before but I absolutely love this beer! This is definitely the beer that changed my mind on IPA’s, so I simply could not pass up the opportunity.  I love the bitter after taste and how it lingers in your mouth, well past swallowing.  For me it is also refreshingly citrus and so incredibly moreish!

The Boilermaker was smooth, sweet and fruity without being overly sweet like some fruit beers.  I have never had a whisky beer before and I was pleasantly surprised by the sourness of the whisky against the sweetness of the fruity flavours.  Very drinkable I found.  Could easily drink more!

The Ruby Red has interesting flavours which i cant quite pick out.  To me it is the liquorish which stands out the most but it is lightened up a tad by some fruity flavours.  It is quite hopy but not overly so as it still remains quite smooth as you sip it, but the hop flavour does remain in the mouth after you swallow, but not in a bad way.

Onto the Growler… what a great name. So i think my taste buds and my brain maybe a little confused after drinking all of the above but this is the darkest beer of the bunch.  It looks a little like Coca Cola, but tastes much better. For me there is a strong flavour of coffee and smooth but bitter taste – not overwhelmingly bitter (am i making sense here?).  I’m happily sipping away enjoying the depth of flavours of my first  Porter I have knowingly drunk.


Tonight I was drinking...

Tonight I was drinking…

Kedgeree with coriander and chilli
Kedgeree with coriander and chilli