San Diego Breweries – Part one

A Hop Odyssey


Stone Brewing Co

A Disneyland for beer. We arrived at Stone before they opened and there was probably at least 40 people ahead of us in the queue. Stone World Bistro and gardens is a wonderful place. A huge brewhouse is somehow tucked away behind a high-end restaurant (sadly didn’t get to dine there) and two well-stock bars serving Stone’s ever expanding range of beers and masterfully selected guests. The thing that is the real cherry on the cake are the gardens, not only could I drink some of the very best beer in the world but in the stunning setting of their grounds. The brewery tour ended up being more of a talk and not much of a look around the facility, but I over looked that after my final taster of Stone Russian Imperial Stout post-tour. Visiting Stone was always going to be a highlight of my journey, I only wish I could have stayed longer.

Beers drank – (Post-tour samples) Levitation, IPA, Arrogant Bastard and Imperial Russian stout.

Cimmerian Portal (stout), Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA and Stone Ruination IPA with Yuzu, Kumquats, and Red Pomelo


Not many things excited me more than the idea of visiting Alesmith. A Short car journey from White Labs to a rather non-descript corner of an industrial park we found one of the best breweries in the world. Inside it reminded me of a posh insurance brokers office…if it wasn’t for the bottling line and racks of oak barrels. Alesmith is a relativity small place considering its reputation. I didn’t record too much video footage but I couldn’t pass up a chance of reviewing the special Vietnamese coffee version of Speedway stout. Speedway is one of my favourite beers of all time and this variation was sublime. While at the brewery a had slightly embarrassing moment, Peter Zien Alesmith’s head-honcho met and shook hands with other members of our party, I was stood on the other side of a barrel/table, he turned to me, and as I stuck out my hand to press some fresh with the big boss man he turned away for me to retreat into my sample of Speedway red-faced. Thankfully my face was already scorched from strolling along the harbor the day before. For the last 20-30mins of our time at the brewery I stood and chatted to too very friendly locals talking about the local beer scene. A truly great experience.

Beers drank – Speedway Stout Vietnamese Coffee, Speedway Stout (regular), Nut Brown Ale, Old Ale, Lil Devil, Ramblin’ Rye (Cigar City collab)



Lost Abbey / Port Brewing

Personally I’ve always preferred the less lorded output of the Port Brewing arm of this brewery. Yes, I agree Lost Abbey create some wonderful and creative twists on Belgian inspired and barrel-aged beer. On the day we visited it was during the collection day for Lost Abbey’s most recent uber-rare and super pricey release named Veritas. To get your 4 bottle limit of this beer you had to order a week or two in advance and the select a day and time to come and collect your allocation at a hefty $40 per bottle. WOWZERS! Lost Abbey make some lovely beers, Red Barn Saison, Saint’s Devoltion a hopped-up brett pale ale and Serpent Stout to name a few. As with most breweries a food stall or van is often found outside and on this day we troffed down some greasily tasty grilled cheese sandwiches to soak up the sample of Grand Cru and glasses of Ryan’s first sour that he’d brought along to share with friends. Lost Abbey typifies one of the less attractive elements of American beer culture for me, over priced exclusive beers that actually aren’t all that good. But that is just my personal taste.

Beers drank – Port Brewing: Board Meeting, Mongo, Anniversary Ale, Lost Abbey: Framboise de Amarosa, Angel’s Share Grand Cru


What I’ve been drinking this week…


I admit it; I’m full of big idea. I start these new regular blog posts and then do them once and never again. This idea comes as a result of listening a few of my favourite beery podcasts Beyond the Pour, Beer O’clock Show and live Google+ hangout Beer Dweebs United.

Some weeks I’ll have a guests chiming in on what they have been drinking recently but mostly it’s going to be me recalling what beers I’ve been drinking this week.


The big one for me this week has been Northern Monk. I visited the brewery on one of their preview nights before the opening of their on-site taproom and kitchen called The Refectory. My favourites on tap were Dark Arches, a great Black IPA with a good balance of roast and hops. The highlight was Northern Star, a mocha porter brewed using North Star coffee. Located in the Holbeck part of Leeds Northern Monk has become an instant must-visit for all Leeds bound beer drinkers.


The bottles that have been rocking my week are Prairie/Evil Twin Bible belt and Dieu du Ciel Moralité. Bible Belt is a massive 13% imperial stout with coffee, chocolate and a fizzle of chili heat. Full flavoured, full-bodied and oh so wonderful. Quebec’s Brasserie Dieu du Ciel hooked up with The Alchemist from Vermont (of Heady Topper fame) to create one of the best IPA’s I’ve had all year. Moralité is truly stunning stuff, big juicy orange, sweet pineapple and bitter grapefruit, my kind of IPA.

Leeds Twissup – 29 November 2014

1408643568854The good man Si over at the Whose Round is it Anyway blog has spearheaded the return of Twissup to Yorkshire.


The beer scene in Leeds is growing all the time and Twissup is going to take in both the best of the new and some old classics too.

Starting at 12.30pm on Saturday 29th November 2014 here is the plan for the day.

Over to Si with the rundown of the day’s activities:


Itinerary for the day then:

12.30pm – Northern Monk Refectory 
Only opened on 24th October. Over 15 taps to choose from. If you are feeling peckish food on site from Grub and Grog Shop. This is a small walk out of town, from the station. Thought it would be good for people who don’t live in Leeds to see this great new place. Leave here around 1.45pm.


2pm – Bundobust
Great selection of keg beers and bottles. Also the Indian Snack food is bloody good

3.15pm – Tapped
Probably the bar with the largest keg / cask / bottle selection in Leeds. Beers from all over the UK and the rest of the world. Pizza anyone?

4.15pm – Friends of Ham
The refurb has made space for over 50 bums on seat. Much bigger bar giving a wider choice of beers. Lots of beers in the fridge too.

5.30pm – Whitelocks
If the weather is ok, I thought it would be good to take a trip to Leeds oldest pub. I say weather depending, as we will end up being outside. Bit cramped inside for a large group of people. Cask only, you may get a bottle of blue moon if you are lucky.

6.15pm – Belgrave Music Hall
Thought we would go here to re-charge and re-fuel before we go to North Bar. Resident pizza guys, Dough Boys, will give you a slice to keep you going that bit longer, or there will be a guest street food vendor on site. e.g Patty Smiths

7.30pm – North Bar
No description required

Please feel free to invite any friends and/or partners!


Drinking in Leeds/Bradford keeps getting better

Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 11.09.04 AM


Much like the River Aire, the beer scene in the Leeds/Bradford Area never stops moving as exciting, new breweries and pubs frequent the landscape. Bradford’s front runner in the scene is The Sparrow. Since it opened in 2012 The Sparrow has been the place to go to get your fix of flavoursome, modern beer from all around the globe but also from our best local breweries. In addition to the Bradford bastions of Real Ale like The Corn Dolly and Fighting Cock, there are the new additions of The Fox in Shipley, the recently moved Oddfellows and on the horizon, The Record Café.

Regarding the important bit, the stuff in your glass, Saltaire Brewery continue to expand and evolve adding beers to their range and in 2014 collaborated with Dark Star from Sussex and Leeds’ Northern Monk on IPAs, Bocks and Smoked Porters. Nearby Ilkley Brewery continue to experiment to exciting conclusions with whisky barrel aged beers like their Speyside Siberia. Opening late 2014, brewing returns to the city centre in the form of Bradford Brewery.

Bursting at the seams with beery delights, Leeds has recently seen the opening of numerous new places to drink; most notably Bundobust. A joint venture between the people behind Bradford’s The Sparrow linking up with the critically acclaimed Prashad restaurant, Bundobust is a fine blend Craft Beer bar and Indian Street Food café. Lining their bar are the likes of Magic Rock, Camden Town, the much lorded Mikkeller (gypsy brewer from Denmark) and permantant spots for their house beer, a Czech Brewed Corriander Pilsner and Saltaire Gold.

Leeds has also welcomed Tapped, a brewpub in the US style brought to us by Pivovar, the people behind York Tap, Euston Tap, Harrogate Tap and a number of others bars who have introduced quality beer to discarded buildings in/near railway stations. The ever popular Friends of Ham have taken over the unit next door, making their small yet perfectly formed space into a more spacious beery, meaty heaven. Scottish purveyors of hoppy delights, BrewDog, are soon to relocate to a bigger premises and remodel their current location into BottleDog, supplying the city centre with a much-needed bottle shop.

I cannot mention our local beer scene without mentioning Northern Monk Brew Co. Born in Bradford and realized in Leeds, Northern Monk are the newest kids on the brewing block and after collaborations with Saltaire, Quantum, Bad Seed and Atom have finally planted some roots in the city’s Hollbeck area. They launched the brewery in late August with the taproom opening in the near future.

Its never been such an exciting time to be a beer drinker in this area, whether it’s from a cask, keg, bottle or can the beer is flowing and it’s tasting great!




This article was first produced as part of the programme for Saltaire Brewery Beer Festival. Big thanks to Tony for asking me to write this piece.

Bundobust – Leeds’ latest craft beer venue



I recently had the chance to attend a private preview of the new craft beer destination in Leeds, Bundobust. The brainchild of the people behind two of Bradford’s shining stars Sparrow Bier Café and Prashad restaurant. These two are teaming up to present the perfect combination of great craft beer (sorry no cask here its all keg) and Indian street food.

This former neglected amusement arcade on Mill Hill (just round the corner from Scarborough Taps and up from The Cockpit) has been stripped back to expose rough brickwork and original iron posts now highlighted by the addition of recycled woods, concrete and a unique entrance clad with reclaimed wooden front doors.

The furniture is simple metal-frame benches with recycled wood and tabletops made out of ground-up plastic bottles. Its rough and industrial but has a simple modern softness too.

Believe it or not but this small shop front has a great outdoor area too, more benches and tables are covered by a corrugated roof so you are out side by without being TOO outside for the unpredictable West Yorkshire climate. Not many places boasts an outdoor drinking/eating area in Leeds and this one is lovely.

I’m not going to get into the food too much (this is a beer blog after all) but I did sample the menu on the evening and its was very nice plus if you had the chance to visit their roaming stall at a number of food and drink festivals over the last 12 months or so you’ll know how tasty the food is going to be. It’s the Prashad so of course it going to be top notch.

Onto the important bit…the beer. The selection on the all-keg bar is a perfect match for the gentle warmth of the Indian street food. 12 taps in total and on the opening night you will see Northern Monk / Atom Enlightenment  Orange Rye Saison, Magic Rock Cannonball, Harbour India Brown, Saltaire Gold, Mikkeller Green Gold, Schneider Weisse Meine Blonde, Flying Dog Mango and Habenero IPA amongst others.

The beers have been selected are to compliment the food, such as assertive IPAs, quenching weissbiers will be joined by their house lager Opat Kvasniák Coriander, a coriander infused Czech pilsner that will work perfectly with the menu. If that’s not enough a dedicated Mikkeller tap, yes the Godfather of Gypsy Brewing  finds a home in Leeds so expect well…the unexpected. Another thing to spark your beery interest is that they have a “Randall”, a “Hopinator” or  to give him his full title Randall The Enamel Animal. The invention of Milton Delaware’s Dogfish Head, a pre-dispense device that enables Bundobust to infuse a beer with additional ingredients. Mostly they are used to inject a final kick of hop flavour and aroma but with Indian cuisine in mind that opens up a load of interesting possibilities. An export stout infused with coconut and Indian spices? The closest thing I’ll get to another glass of Ballast Point Indra Kunindra, I hope so.

Bundobust opens 11/7/2014 on 6 Mill Hill, Leeds, LS15DQ

Follow them on Twitter (@Bundobust) and keep upto date on Facebook.

Golden Pints 2013

Rob’s Winners are…

My drinking habits and current venues of choice have had a big influence over what I’ve had and where I’ve had it this year. I could easily roll out the established kings of the county like Magic Rock and Kernel but I think its time I cheered on a few different names and this year’s list reflects that.

Best UK cask beer:

Winner: Cromarty – Rogue Wave

Runner up: Salopian – Black Ops, St Austell – Big Job

Best UK keg beer:

Winner: Brewdog – Paradox Grain

Runner up: Magic Rock – Cannonball, Partizan – Black Coffee IPA, Siren – Aussie Sound Wave

Honourable mention: Brewdog – Dead Metaphor

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer:

Winner – Brewdog -Black Tokyo* Horizon

Runner up: Cromarty – AKA IPA, Salopian – Black Ops, Brewdog – Paradox Grain, Thornbridge – Imperial Oatmeal Stout

Best Overseas Draught Beer:

Winner: De Struise Brouwers – Cuvée Delphine

Runner up: Evil Twin – Even More Jesus, To Øl – Black Malts & Body Salts

Best Overseas Bottle/can Beer:

Winner: Stone – Enjoy By 11.12.13

Runner up: Mikkeller – Beer Geek Vanilla Shake, Evil Twin – Even More Jesus, Firestone Walker – Wookey Jack and Double DBA

Best Overall Beer:

Stone – Enjoy By 11.12.13

Best Pumpclip or Label:

Winner – Partizan (everything)

Best UK Brewery:
Winner: Brewdog

Runner up:  Salopian, Cromarty

Best Overseas Brewery:

Winner: Firestone Walker,

Runner up: To Øl, Cantillon, De Struise Brouwers

Pub/Bar of the Year:
Winner: Brewdog (Leeds)

Runner up: The Grove (Huddersfield), Pivni (York), Brewery Tap / Crowd of Favors (Leeds), Port Street Beer House (Manchester)

Independent Retailer of the Year: Beermoth (Manchester)

Online Retailer of the Year:
Winner: (tie) Ales by Mail, Brewdog, Alesela

Best Beer Blog or Website:

Tie – The Good Stuff and The Beer Cast
YouTube – Master of Hoppets, Real Ale / Craft Beer, Bear Beer Reviews, San Diego Beer Vlog, Beyond the Pour

Best Beer Festival:
Winner – Indy Man Beer Con

Runner up – Leeds International Beer Festival

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer:


Best collaboration brew:
Dead Metaphor – Brewdog/HopZine/Beercast (of course)

Best New Brewery Opening 2013:
Winner – Wired Beard

Runner up – Northern Monk

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013:
Winner – Brewdog (leeds)

Best city for beer in the UK:
Winner – Manchester

Runners up – London, Huddersfield

Supermarket of the Year:
Winner – Waitrose

Best Beer App:
Winner – Untapped

Best Beer Book or Magazine:
Winner – Great Yorkshire Beer – Leigh Linley

Craft Beer Monthly

3 December, 7.30pm



Debuting on Tuesday 3rd December at 7.30pm (GMT) is a brand new live beer broadcast by Simon Martin of YouTube’s Real Ale / Craft Beer channel and me Rob from HopZine.

Live every month we will be reviewing three beers, interviewing a special guest from the wonderful world of beer and having a good old beery chat.

On our very first show we will be joined by Colin Stronge the Head Brewer at Buxton Brewery. Colin will join us at 9pm so please tune in from 7.30pm and post your questions for one of the UK’s most talented brewers.

If you’ve ever seen me or Simon before you are surely expecting some beer reviews and hectolitres of tasting notes.

The beers we are taking a look at this month are:

Sierra Nevada – Tumbler Autumnal Brown Ale

Thornbridge – Halcyon Imperial IPA

Buxton Brewery – Stronge Extra Stout


Please tune in at 3rd December 7.30pm, drink along, send in your questions and enjoy the berry waffle.

Click here to be directed to Craft Beer Monthly’s home (Real Ale / Craft Beer channel)

BrewDog Dead Metaphor – Drink it today!

Our collab brew hits the taps at IMBC 2013indy_man_beer_con_2013

The wait is nearly over…Brewdog’s Dead Metaphor a milk stout infused with Brazilian Sertão coffee, 100% Venezuelan cocoa and oats will be making its debut at Indy Man Beer Con on Thursday 10 October (2013).

On Friday at 6:30pm me and my fellow collaborator Richard Taylor of will be at the Brewdog Bar at Indy Man Beer Con, the UK’s premier beer event to launch the beer we created in partnership with Brewdog.

Please come and visit the bar to hear all about the beer, the concept and drink a glass of tasty beer with Rich and me.

A limited run of bottled Dead Metaphor will be available in the future adorned with a very special label designed by one of the coolest illustrators around Drew Millward.

Brooklyn Brewery Pop up bar, Leeds


A small green “B” next to the door of an unused building in Leeds city center marks the location of Brooklyn Brewery’s Pop-Up bar.

This place is/was a secret, a mystery, I had to scratch around online to get any available scraps to find out where it was.


On arrival I was met by kind of a reception desk, where I could buy all kinds of Brooklyn Brewery merchandise and more importantly beer tokens. The deal was ?4.50 for 1 and then ?20 for 5, Esther and I opted for five and stepped in to the sparse interior.

The walls are unfinished and emblazoned with neon, spray painted logos, a small counter manned by Red True BBQ (more on that later) and a large corrugated metal bar backed with a line of signature tap handles mounted on a temporary wall.


The beers of offer were Brooklyn Lager, Pennant Ale, Brown Ale in pint measures, Sorachi Ace, Cuvée La Boîte, Weisse, EIPA in 2/3rds and lastly Blast limited to halves at 9% abv.


We enjoyed pints of Brown Ale (one of my favourites from My Oliver and co) glasses of Sorachi Ace and Cuvée La Boîte ending with a shared pint of Brown once again to spend our last token on. The Brown Ale was tasting great, flavoursome, nicely sweet and effortlessly quaffable, Sorachi Ace wasn’t what I remember so fondly and seem to lack something, Cuvée La Boîte was very tasty, complex and very Belgian. Sorachi Ace was so lacking that I thought Cuvée La Boîte and Sorachi Ace had been incorrectly connected to the taps…I was told otherwise. Kind of a shame as I think really highly of that beer?


We shared a couple of portions of food from the Reds True BBQ sat at the long picnic tables. On the menu were baby back ribs with coleslaw and cornbreads and pulled pork sandwiches. Red’s is a very popular eatery and to the point that I’ve never managed to get a table. I’ve heard good and famously bad reports from this trendy “Dirty Food” venue and I wasn’t too impressed myself. The ribs were terrible, dry, incinerated and caked in sickly sweet sauce, a real letdown. The coleslaw was hardly coleslaw and more like shredded salad, the cornbreads were bland, and with the structural integrity of a dry Victoria Sponge. Thankfully the pulled pork sarnie was better, nicely smoked and still juicy then topped with another sweet sauce that personally I think should have offered a bit more. I’ve made my own BBQ sauces in the past and have been much more interesting than these. If you want a good pulled pork sandwich try the Brewdog bar in Manchester, that one was massive (admittedly more expensive) tipped with charred edges and a wonderfully spicy sauce, I’m not a spicy fan but that was stunning slow n’ low eating…not this.


Overall I really enjoyed my time at Brooklyn’s Pop-Up bar, it was a Wednesday evening and it had only been open for about an hour so it was rather quiet but had a nice atmosphere, I expect Friday and Saturday it will be buzzing and packed to the rafters. The beer was great and that’s the most important thing and I’m sure word has now got around and the young and painfully cool will now descend…that’s OK us beer geeks got there first. So that makes us the coolest!


So where was/is it you ask? I’m not saying…find out for yourself.

The Fox, Shipley opens its doors

My new local


In these times of pubs closing all the time its a welcome sight to see one opening its doors. The latest addition to the Shipley (my hometown) is The Fox, the brainchild of Salamander Brewery co-founder Chris Bee and “Brighton Bill” Bil Arnold former landlord of the multi award winning The Junction in Baildon. Shipley is a bit of a mixed bag as far as pubs go, a few nice places on the fringes but on a whole it’s a bit dicey. The Fox is a breath of fresh air.


The interior is modest yet cosy, plain white walls sporting black and white photos of the area and a row of vintage beer trays lining the brim. A dark brown bar houses six hand-pulled ales focuses mainly on local ales from the likes of Saltaire, Salamader (naturally), Old Spot and Bridgehouse. On my flying visit I plumped for a half …well actually 2 halves of Dark Star’s Indian Summer IPA and a Saltaire Cascade.The fridges are decent but in my option could a bit better populated, too many doubling up on a lot if Belgian classics. I was glad to see a few bottles of Founders All-Day IPA tucked in alongside La Choufee and Chimay.

It certainly helps when the landlord knows his stuff and has a great rappot with the locals who line the bar.  From a personal point of view I’m very happy that I can step off at Platform 2 in Shipley train station and a couple of minutes later I can be drinking quality ale on my way home from work… I say on my way home, if today is anything to go by it may take me a bit longer to make that trip up the road.