Sunday, 16 February 2020

Best Beers in Wales 2020

Time for the annual review of websites to find the Best Beer in Wales
 First up is the Anheuser-Busch Inbev subsidiary of Ratebeer:


1 Mabinogion Mead / Superstition 'Hounds of Annwn' Strawberry vanilla 
2 Polly's Brew Fallow Plans 
3 Tiny Rebel Imperial Puft 
4 Loka Polly Souvenirs 
5 Loka Polly Rosa 
6 Polly's Brew Lo-Fi 
7 Tiny Rebel Stay Puft Imperial Chocolate  
8 Tiny Rebel Stay Puft Amplified Imperial 
9 Loka Polly Spur 
10 Tiny Rebel / Siren Dark Cherry & Chocolate Barley Wine 
11 Polly's Brew What Did You Feel IPA 
12 Polly's Brew Fickle 
13 Loka Polly Double IPA Mosaic Simcoe 
14 Polly’s Brew Every Piece Matters 
15 Polly's Brew India Pale Ale El Dorado Deluxe Edition  
16 Polly's Brew Double IPA Azacca Mosaic 
17 Polly's Brew Livewire 
18 Polly's Brew Patternist 
19 Polly's Brew Avery 
20 Loka Polly Petal 
21 Tiny Rebel / Arbor Bonsai 
22 Tiny Rebel Imperial Stay Puft Irish Cream 
23 Tiny Rebel Stay Puft Imperial Salted Caramel 
24 Polly's Brew India Pale Ale Simcoe Mosaic  
25 Tiny Rebel / Deya NEIPA 
26 Polly's Brew Nada 
27 Polly's Brew Rock The Bit 
28 Tiny Rebel / Siren Didgeridank 
29 Polly's Brew On & On & On 
30 Tiny Rebel Clwb Tropicana 
31 Loka Polly Stout Citra Columbus 
32 Polly's Discount Jazz Hour 
33 Tiny Rebel What's Cooler Than Being Cool 
34 Polly's Brew Here We Are, Again 
35 Tiny Rebel Stay Puft Chocolate 
36 Polly's Brew India Stout Ekuanot 
37 Tiny Rebel Loki Lite 
38 Tiny Rebel Captain Insano 
39 Tiny Rebel Hadouken 
40 Loka Polly India Pale Ale El Dorado Simcoe 
41 Tiny Rebel / Dark Star Rebel Alliance 
42 Loka Polly Pale Ale Citra El Dorado 
43 Loka Polly India Pale Ale El Dorado Mosaic 
44 Loka Polly India Pale Ale Citra Columbus 
45 Loka Polly Wilt Double India Pale Ale 
46 Crafty Devil You Love Us 
47 Polly's Brew Grow, Deliver And Repeat 
48 Tiny Rebel / Fierce Beer Orange Mocha Frapp Stout 
49 Tiny Rebel Stay Puft 
50 Tiny Rebel Dirty Stop Out 

Polly's and Tiny Rebel dominating amongst Ratebeer users
Ratebeer also list the top places to drink in Wales:
1
1. Tiny Rebel Cardiff (91)
2. BrewDog Cardiff (88)
3. Hopbunker (87)
4. City Arms (Brains) (84)
5. Tiny Rebel Newport (83)
6. Fire & Ice (81) Good to see a Narberth outlet here!
7. Beelzebubs (80)
8. Clytha Arms (80)
9. Vinomondo (80)
10. Albion Ale House (79)

Meanwhile on Untappd:
  1. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Imperial Salted Caramel Stay Puft
  2. Polly's Brew Co. Nada
  3. Polly's Brew Co. Rosa
  4. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Imperial Chocolate Stay Puft
  5. Polly's Brew Co. Spur
  6. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Imperial Irish Cream Stay Puft
  7. Polly's Brew Co. Lo-Fi
  8. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Amplified Imperial Stay Puft
  9. Polly's Brew Co Fallow Plans
  10. Polly's Brew Co. Every Piece Matters
  11. Polly's Brew Co. Dream Like Sequence
  12. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Imperial Puft
  13. Polly's Brew Co. Chinook Mosaic Double IPA
  14. Polly's Brew Co. Mosaic Simcoe Double IPA
  15. Polly's Brew Co. Deluxe Edition
  16. Polly's Brew Co. On & On & On
  17. Polly's Brew Co. Patternist
  18. Polly's Brew Co. Citra Simcoe Double IPA
  19. Polly's Brew Co. Livewire
  20. Polly's Brew Co. Wilt
  21. Polly's Brew Co What Did You Feel?
  22. Polly's Brew Co. Souvenirs
  23. Polly's Brew Co. Azacca Mosaic Double IPA
  24. Polly's Brew Co. Simcoe Waimea Double IPA
  25. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co What's Cooler Than Being Cool?
  26. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Salted Caramel Stay Puft
  27. Polly's Brew Co. Discount Jazz Hour
  28. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Didgeridank
  29. Polly's Brew Co. The Feels Vol. 2
  30. Polly's Brew Co. Simcoe Mosaic IPA
  31. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Dark Cherry & Chocolate Barleywine
  32. Polly's Brew Co. Ekuanot Mosaic Double IPA
  33. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Dodge, Dip, Duck, Dive And Dulce
  34. Polly's Brew Co. Who Knew?
  35. Polly's Brew Co. Petal
  36. Polly's Brew Co. Kyra
  37. Polly's Brew Co. The Feels
  38. Polly's Brew Co Citra Ekuanot India Pale Ale
  39. Polly's Brew Co. Rock the Bit
  40. Polly's Brew Co.Cassie
  41. Polly's Brew Co. El Dorado Mosaic India Pale Ale
  42. Polly's Brew Co. Citra Columbus India Pale Ale
  43. Polly's Brew Co. Phase Shift
  44. Polly's Brew Co Citra Simcoe India Pale Ale
  45. Polly's Brew Co Citra Mosaic India Pale Ale
  46. Polly's Brew Co Here We Are, Again
  47. Polly's Brew Co Fickle
  48. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Chocolate Stay Puft
  49. Polly's Brew Co. Citra Double IPA
  50. Polly's Brew Co An Original Mix
Polly's Brewery dominating there with Tiny Rebel coming up second
According to Untappd "A beer must have 150 ratings or more to qualify for this list".


Untapped also produce a list of top breweries in Wales, according to them "A brewery must have at least 1,000 ratings and at least 5 beers in their portfolio to qualify for this list." Their top Welsh breweries are:
  1. Polly's Brew Co.
  2. Dog's Window Brewery
  3. Lucky 7 Beer Co
  4. Crafty Devil Brewing Co
  5. BeerRiff
  6. Wild Horse Brewing Co
  7. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co
  8. Top Rope Brewing
  9. Tenby Brewing Co
  10. Rival Brewing Co.
  11. PIPES™
  12. Lines Brew Co.
  13. Hopcraft Brewing
  14. Wilderness Brewery
  15. Newtown, Powys Wales
  16. Grey Trees Brewery
  17. The Waen Brewery
  18. Gwynt y Ddraig
  19. Cwrw Cader
  20.  Heavy Industry Brewing
  21. Geipel Brewing
  22. Purple Moose Brewery (Bragdy Mŵs Piws)
  23. Velvet Owl Brewing Co.
  24. Brew Monster
  25. Lithic Brewing
  26. Llangorse, Brecon Wales
  27. Untapped Brewing Company
  28. Mad Dog Brewing Co
  29. Penperlleni, Monmouthshire Wales
  30. Gower Brewery
  31. Mantle
  32. Glamorgan Brewing Co
  33. Cwrw Llŷn
  34. Tenby Harbwr Brewery
  35. Cwrw Ial Community Brewing Company
  36. Hallets
  37. Hafod Brewing Company
  38. Bragdy Twt Lol
  39. Big Hand Brewing Co
  40. Caffle Brewery
  41.  Kingstone Brewery
  42. Tintern, Monmouthshire Wales
  43. Pixie Spring Brewery
  44. VOG Brewery
  45. Tomos & Lilford
  46.  Mumbles Brewery
  47. Conwy Brewery
  48. Great Orme Brewery
  49. Bragdy Nant Brewery
  50. Tudor Brewery
  51.  Bluestone Brewing Co.
  52. Tomos Watkin and Sons Ltd.
  53. Swansea, Wales Wales
  54. Brewhouse & Kitchen - Cardiff
  55. Cold Black Label

Once again, over at Beer Advocate, no Welsh beers make it into the top 100 but for the first time they do now have a top list of Welsh beers:

  1. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. Hadouken
  2. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. Stay Puft
  3. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. Clwb Tropicana
  4. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. Cali
  5. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. Urban IPA, Not brewed for a few years!
  6. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co.Cwtch
  7. Purple Moose Brewery Dark Side Of The Moose
  8. Hurns Brewing Co Tomos Watkin's Cwrw Hâf
  9. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co.Dirty Stop Out
  10. Brains Dark
  11. Felinfoel Brewery Co. Thames Welsh ESB
  12. English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) -
  13. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co The Full Nelson
  14. .Hurns Brewing Co Tomos Watkin Old Style Bitter 
  15. Otley Brewing Company O9 Blonde
  16. Brains Original Stout
  17. Hurns Brewing Co Tomos Watkin's Cwrw Braf
  18. Brains Bitter
  19. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. FUBAR
  20. Brains Craft Brewery Boilermaker
  21. Purple Moose Brewery Snowdonia Ale (Cwrw Eryri)
  22. English Pale Mild Ale
  23. Brains The Rev. James
  24. Brains Craft Brewery Barry Island IPA 6% version, was 5% last time I tried it
  25. Brains SA Gold
  26. Brains Black
  27. Brains SA
  28. Felinfoel Brewery Co.Double Dragon
  29. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. Frambuzi 
  30. Conwy Brewery Welsh Pride 


The Beer Advocate list does seem to be out-of-date, with beers that have not been brewed for years on it, and the sadly gone Otley Brewery appearing on it.

Lastly to CAMRA, who once again are trying their best to hide the winners of their Champion Beer of Wales competition, with out-of-date information and broken links on their national website and a non-functioning local website. Again no press release of the winners was issued. Anyway, enough moaning about that increasingly sleazy and irrelevant organisation and here are their 2019 winners:

Mild
Winner – Rhymney Brewery, Dark
Runner Up – Facer’s Brewery, Mountain Mild
Old Ale/Strong Mild
Winner – The Untapped Brewing Company, Ember
Runner Up – Purple Moose Brewery/Bragdy Mŵs Piws, Dark Side of the Moose
Porter
Winner – Grey Trees Brewery, Valley Porter
Runner Up – Tiny Rebel Brewing Co., Stay Puft
Stout
Winner – Boss Brewing Company, Black
Runner Up – MadDog BrewingCo, Stouty McStout Face
Strong Bitters
Winner – Grey Trees Brewery, Afghan Pale Ale
Runner Up – Montys Brewery, Mischief
Bitter
Winner – Rhymney Brewery, Hobby Horse
Best Bitter
Winner – Glamorgan Brewing Co., Jemima’s Pitchfork
Runner Up – Cwrw Ial Community Brewing Company, Kia Kaha!
Golden Ale
Winner – Grey Trees Brewery, Digger’s Gold
Speciality Ale
Winner – Mumbles Brewery Ltd, Oystermouth Stout

Friday, 22 November 2019

Worrying about hangovers makes them worse


New research from the University of Salford:
Worrying about how bad your hangover pain will be could make it worse

New research suggests that worrying about pain can make hangover symptoms more severe.

The recent study, carried out at the University of Salford, examined how experiences of hangovers varied from person to person, and whether this was linked to whether the individual was likely to “catastrophise pain”.

Pain catastrophising is the tendency some people have to worry overly about the threat of pain and to feel helpless in managing their pain, as well as dwelling on thoughts about how much something hurts.

The research involved 86 participants aged between 18 – 46 years old. They were asked to complete questionnaires asking about a recent time when they had consumed alcohol. From this the researchers were able to estimated participants blood alcohol levels. The participants also reported the extent of their hangover and their tendency to catastrophise pain.

The research showed a significant relationship between catastrophising and hangover severity scores. This was a stronger predictor of perceived hangover severity than estimated peak blood alcohol concentration.

Further analysis identified that there were two distinct types of hangover symptoms; those that were stress-related and those that were dehydration-related. Both types of symptoms were worse in those who had a higher peak alcohol concentration, while stress-related symptoms were also worse in those who were more likely to catastrophise pain.

Lead researcher Sam Royle explained: “These findings suggest the importance of cognitive coping strategies in how people experience hangovers after drinking alcohol. This may have implications in understanding behavioural responses to hangovers, and also for addiction research.”
Lead researcher and wizard, Sam Royle, University of Salford

Thursday, 21 November 2019

A visit to Jennings Brewery


A spring visit to the historic Jennings Brewery in Cockermouth, Cumbria. The brewery is set beneath the walls of Cockermouth Castle, at the confluence of the Rivers Derwent and Cocker, which proved to be dangerous in the floods of 2009. The brewery almost closed, had it not been for the parent company Marston's, who brewed the beers temporarily elsewhere whilst Jennings brewery was repaired and cleaned out. Jennings started out brewing in nearby High Loughton in 1828. Surprisingly, the brewery cottages and the malthouse still survive, the latter converted into the village hall, now known as Yew Tree Hall, in 1910. The company had moved to its present site by 1874 and the distinctive Grade II Listed maltings were built in 1889. The reason for the move to this site was the abundance of well water which was used for the castle and is still used to brew the beers today. In 2005 the brewery was taken over by Marston's Brewery.

Above: Cockermouth Castle, the brewery is to the right of fortress

Above: Looking upstream of the Derwent, the Cocker is on the right

Above: the buildings on the left are the Grade II Listed former maltings, now unused, the other buildings house the brewery.
The former maltings are the most picturesque part of the brewery buildings, it's s shame they lie empty. There would be problems converting to alternative use due to lack of parking and the danger of flooding.

Below: the Jennings Brewery logo, on glass inside the brewery

Above: the gateway to Jennings Brewery, with the maltings in the centre

Above: the former maltings

Above: the shop and beginning of the brewery tour



Above and below: the tap room
Below: the brewery itself, the grist mill
Below: the hop store

Above and below: the mash tun

Below: the copper


Below: the fermenting room

Above and below: fermenters

All quite modern brewery kit, there were some older mash tuns at the brewery but we went past them too quickly on the tour to be able to photograph them
Below: the sample cellar for the tap room

 Prices for the brewery tour and tasting are (2019 prices) £9.50 for an adult, which isn't too bad for a couple of hours tour and tastings. Full details of the tours are on the Jennings Brewery website.

Cockermouth is easily reached by bus from either Workington or Keswick/Penrith and the Stagecoach bus X4/X5 runs every half an hour throughout the day.
There are a number of pubs in Cockermouth, the Bush offers the best range of Jennings beers outside of the brewery tap and marston's continue to use the Jennings brand for this pub rather than their own.


 The Castle Bar offers the best non-Jennings beers in the town and the building is a lot older than the facade makes out, dating back to the sixteenth century. The pub sign features the lion of the Matthew Brown & Co Brewery of Blackburn, who acquired the Workington Brewery (buildings still standing in 2019) in 1975, Theakstons in 1984 and were themselves taken over by Scottish & Newcastle Breweries in 1987 with the Blackburn Brewery closing in 1981.




Tuesday, 7 May 2019

A visit to Hawkshead Brewery


Staveley in the Lake District is easily reached by train from Oxenholme and is on the line to Windermere.

The Railway Hotel is no more, having closed around 2005 but that's no matter, a short stroll downhill from the station is Hawkshead Brewery, housed in a former mill. The brewery was started by Alex Brodie in 2002, just outside of the Cumbrian village of Hawkshead and relocated to Staveley in 2006 with a 20-barrel brewery. The company operates another brewery at Flookburgh, a 40 barrel plant, this expansion was made possible by a £3 million investment from the parent company, Halewood International, who are famous for the Crabbie's brand of ginger beer. Halewood International also own Sadler's Brewery and the chav's favourite sparkling perry, Lambrini. Halewood handle the distribution of Hawkshead beers. The Staveley Brewery specialises in brewing small-scale specialist beers, whilst the regular beers will be brewed at Flookburgh.  
Above: Some of the beers brewed by Hawkshead

The Staveley brewery has a beer hall attached which is open all day and serves food, you don't have to attend the brewery tour in order to have a drink here, the hall is open to all.
Hawkshead Brewery award-wall is large and impressive
The brewery tour begins with a video and explanation of the ingredients used to brew here. Unusually, possibly uniquely, the water is brought to the brewery via tanker rather than a mains connection. 
Malt ready to go in the grist case
Above: the mash tun
Above: the copper
Above: the fermenting room
The house yeast is unique, having been obtained from a now-defunct German brewery, a top-fermenting yeast from a former Kolsch brewer. 
Conditioning and racking room
Above: One of their small scale brews, ageing in whisky casks

Above: two multi-purpose vessels, can be used for fermenting or conditioning.

Above and below: the range of Hawkshead beers available in their Beer Hall, both cask and keg
The unusual range of beers included a Chuckle Berry Sour, a Berliner Weiss with Chuckleberries, having pressed Chuckleberries and tasted the rather tart cross of redcurrant, gooseberry and Jostaberry (a gooseberry/blackcurrant cross) it was good to see a use for this distinctive fruit. 

The brewery tour costs £10 (2019 price) and starts each day at 1300 hrs.

If you are in the area, make sure to take a trip to Windermere, the next stop up on the railway line, to visit the fantastic Crafty Baa.

If you're heading the other direction, a short but steep walk uphill from Oxenholme Railway Station is the Station Inn, offering good food and Wifi, the perfect place to spend a couple of hours filling in your refund form online for the trains delayed for over two hours due to a derailment! Thanks to Virgin Trains for a speedy refund though!

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Award-winning cidermaker opens micropub in Hereford



Herefordshire cidermaker Denis Gwatkin of Gwatkin's Cider in Abbeydore, has opened a micropub in Hereford's historic Buttermarket, serving a range of his award-winning ciders and perries as well as beers and lager from Wye Valley Brewery, either to drink in or takeaway. Denis, who has been making cider now for almost 30 years decided to open “Gwatkin'sHouse of Cider” in the Buttermarket as the building is undergoing refurbishment and regeneration with artisan food and drink producers moving in alongside the more traditional market businesses such as butchers and cheesemongers.
Above: Michael Sammars (Bar Manager), Theresa Roberts (Director of Gwatkin Cider) and Denis Gwatkin (Director of Gwatkin Cider)

According to Denis Gwatkin, “This is a great opportunity for us to be able to sell our ciders and perries in the heart of Hereford. We have a successful farm shop at our farm in Abbeydore but not everyone can get out to it, so this is our way of bringing our shop to the centre of the city of Hereford. We're stocking our full range of award-winning ciders and perries alongside other drinks and we are aiming our ciders to complement the range of food available in the Buttermarket. Customers are welcome to try our ciders and we have upcycled cable reels to serve as tables around our bar. We're very excited at this prospect and for the future developments in the Buttermarket.”


Hereford Buttermarket is undergoing a resurgence, along with new businesses such as Gwatkin Cider moving into the building there are plans to open up the upper floors to encourage more traders into the historic structure.



Gwatkin's House ofCider is open from 0900-1645 Monday to Saturday, in Hereford Buttermarket, High Town, Hereford, HR1 2AA


Tuesday, 12 February 2019

A visit to Black Sheep Brewery



 Hidden behind the White Bear Hotel in Masham is the town's other brewery, Black Sheep, housed in the former maltings of the Lightfoot Brewery, which was taken over by Theakston in 1919. In fact the White Bear Hotel occupies the former Lightfoot Brewery buildings, the original White Bear was destroyed by a bomb in 1941, not deliberately it seems, a damaged Heinkel was shedding it's bombs before it crashed.
The front of the Black Sheep Brewery is rather industrial, it's the rear of the premises where the impressive and more photogenic side is.
The ghost sign underneath the Black Sheep Brewery letters refers to the previous use of the building as a maltings.
 Whereas the outside blends the historic and industrial, inside there is a modern bar, bistro and shop
 There were more people on this tour than on the one a few hours earlier going around the Theakston Brewery, a lot more, there were 3 people on the Theakston tour, including myself, whereas there were about 25 on the Black Sheep tour, this could be put down to better marketing but also the Black Sheep Brewery has room for coaches in the large car park.
First up on the tour was a corporate video, explaining the history of this brewery, founded by Paul Theakston in 1992.
                                                     Below: The Theakston family tree
The brewery appears to have been designed with tourism in mind, from the shop and bar to the video room and walkways. A short walk from the video room and up some stairs we come to the tall and long room of the former maltings, now home to the mash tun and copper.
Both pieces of equipment were second hand, the copper coming from the former Hartley's Brewery of Ulverston, Cumbria which closed in 1991.
 Above: a close-up of the mash tun and Steele's Masher
Below: the copper
Back to the the other room for another copper and the hopback

The fermenting room features round Yorkshire square fermenters which sounds like a bit of a contradiction in terms but, bear with me for this! The Yorkshire Square method of fermentation refers to the two-part open-topped fermenting vessels and the rousing pipe which circulates the fermented wort over the yeast. The multiplying yeast expands into the upper vessel, separating the beer from the yeast. Originally these vessels were square or rectangular but difficulty in cleaning  and sourcing new vessels resulted in the round Yorkshire Square being invented.
Above: An old Yorkshire Square at the brewery
Above: the rousing pipe and the yeast below
Above: cut-away diagram showing the Yorkshire Square fermenter
Black Sheep brewery are one of the few breweries using this method of fermentation.
Below: the racking hall
The tour guide on this tour was one of the most knowledgeable and informative guides I have been with on a brewery tour. Well versed in the history and function of the brewery plant, he also threw in a few amusing anecdotes, such as when the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, visited the German-born Pope Benedict XVI he took him a bottle of Black Sheep Monty Python Holy Grail beer!
Tours of Black Sheep Brewery cost £9.95 pp (2018 prices) and if you only have time to visit one brewery in Masham, I suggest visit Black Sheep rather than Theakston's as the tour is far better.

Masham is not short of pubs, however I only had time for a swift pint in the Bruce Arms before catching the bus back to Ripon.

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