Brewing with BrewDog

Dead Metaphor – Scottish Chocolate Breakfast Stout

About a month ago Rich from and I were invited to brew a beer with Brewdog. We both jumped at the opportunity and a few emails later the wheels were set in motion and the questions starting piling up.  What beer should we brew? What have Brewdog already done well? What haven’t they done?

My first thought was a stout.  Brewdog have done many fantastic hoppy beers so I think they have that well-covered.  Both Paradox and Cocoa Psycho are stunning imperial stouts and Rip Tide (when it is available) is great too, but to my mind they hadn’t really made a big splash with a milk stout.

The genesis for the idea to brew a milk stout came from three directions, Left Hand Brewing’s Nitro Milk Stout, To Øl’s Sort Mælk and Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Vanilla Shake. I’ve really enjoyed both the Left Hand and To Øl beers in the past but had never managed to get a bottle of Beer Geek Vanilla Shake but, my god, how good does that sound? So with those thoughts in motion, I mentioned my idea to brew a coffee, chocolate, vanilla milk stout. A really sweet beer, verging towards a dessert beer, but not as strong as the likes of Southern Tier’s Crème Brulee.


Image courtesy of Brewdog (Zarah Prior)

After a few emails between Rich, James Watt and I, the beer became a coffee, chocolate, oatmeal milk stout or as I like to see it, a Scottish Chocolate Breakfast Stout. The concept was agreed on and now we had to make this idea a recipe. After looking around the internet for milk stout recipes I chose John Palmer’s Sweet stout taken from his book “Brewing Classic Styles” as a template from where we could begin. I quizzed people on twitter for coffee recommendations, chocolate and hops Melissa Cole suggested golden oats and brown malt, Ryan Reschan said Magnum hops all great ideas that found their way into the final beer.

With the electronic equivalent of the back of a cigarette packet, it was passed over to James and Stewart Bowman, Brewdog’s head brewer, to formulate a recipe and make this hair-brained scheme a well-considered blueprint for a dark beery breakfast.

5:14am Saturday 7th September 2013, Ibis Hotel, Aberdeen. I woke up with a woozy head and a million and one things running through my mind about the day that lay ahead of us. I couldn’t sleep, too excited like a child on Christmas day. After getting up and devouring a plate of greasy meat, Rich and I were met by Zarah, Sarah and George we jumped in a taxi bound for Fraserburgh. Thick fog filled the air as we neared the tip of the North East of Scotland, welcome to The Broch!

So this is it? This dilapidated old brick industrial unit is where Brewdog have been brewing from since 2007 until only a short while ago? I could only laugh in amazement that THIS is where all those beers were produced for so long. It’s fair to say the old brewery has changed a bit since the migration to Ellon and a lot of the kit has been taken out but this is where it all began.


Image courtesy of Brewdog (Zarah Prior)

Shutter doors were rolled up and we stepped out of the rain into a familiar setting of concrete and stainless steel. The old brewhouse contains the HLT, mashtun, kettle and a number of fermenters. Basic by Brewdog’s standards but very similar to many micro breweries operating around the country. The two adjoining buildings house an impressive number of wood barrels containing beers ageing and maturing, waiting for their turn once the time is just right, to be bottled. The smell in these rooms was wonderful, earthy and slightly damp but with the “Angel’s Share” wafting around in the air.

Brewer George Woods is the lone-wolf brewer at the Dystopian Puppet Hobby Centre.  He worked the day whilst dragging on hand-rolled cigarettes, dressed in a battered Brewdog shirt and Select Botanicals Group “Simcoe” truckers cap. Despite the remote location this is his dream job, this is where Brewdog can really enjoy themselves and create all manner of brewing mayhem. He’s more a natural brewer than a cerebral one.  As he remarks, “Others brewers brew with their brains, we brew with our balls”.

George cranked up the 90s ska-core on the stereo and we got down to business. Lines of malt bags were opened and the HLT came up to temperature. George ascended to his roost on the platform next to the mash tun and switched on an engine that delivered the grain from the brewery floor up to the mashtun and it was Rich and my job to get that grain up there. We rolled up our sleeves and started dumping sack after sack of pale, black patent, brown, wheat, carafa, crystal malt and oats into this ramshackle device to create the mash bed. A fun start to the day and certainly shook off the cobwebs left by last night’s beers.


Image courtesy of Brewdog (Zarah Prior)


Having mashed in, we took a table and chairs into the small patch of land outside the brewery bathed in sun. Zarah and Sarah wandered off to get some snacks for us and we grabbed a bottle of beer from a crate. Steven, one of the brewers at Ellon, dropped in to help out on the brew day on his day off. I’ve not laughed so much in a long time as he entertained us with stories of his time living in the area.

Due to certain restrictions with the kit, the run-off took quite a while so the next couple of hours were spent sipping on bottles of beer and troffing down a stunning fresh fish supper while George and Steven cleaned and prepared the fermenting tank for our beer.

Wort was transferred to the kettle and us lazy bloggers ventured back into the brewhouse. Rich had the questionable joy of digging out the mashtun as I stood on the floor piling it into a large hopper which was then taken away via a forklift truck. A heroic effort from our lad from Edinburgh, Rich mustered the last dregs of energy and hoisted himself out of the steel vessel. Digging a mash tun is in many ways akin to toiling a field of crops whilst in a sauna.

As this was going on, Brewdog’s Captain, James Watt, arrived. We discussed the finer points of the brew – Should we use cocoa nibs or 100% Venezuelan cocoa?  How much Brazilian Sertão coffee should we add? A small amount of Magnum hops were added for bitterness, plus shavings of 100% Venezuelan cocoa that had been grated down from stocky little bars of pure chocolate. Rich and I climbed back up to the gantry to add handfuls of cocoa for another photo opportunity. We then jumped in the car and left the real brewers to finish the boil , add the coffee and transfer it into the fermenters.

What an incredible day.

Dead Metaphor will debut at IMBC in October and then soon after will be launched at Brewdog in Edinburgh and Leeds by Rich and myself at our respective local bars.

I can’t wait to try it and hope you all enjoy it too.

Please check out Rich’s blog about our brewday: Dead Metaphor – a Brewdog brewday


GBBF 2013 : The Good, the Bad and the down right bloody frustrating

Here is some reviews I did live on location plus a look at the bottles I picked up too.


US Bottle Bar

I do enjoy attending the Trade session at GBBF. First thing I always do is head to the very well priced and well-stocked (before I get there) BSF (Bieres Sans frontieres) bottle bar. I picked up beers from Firestone Walker, Dogfish Head, Fifty Fifty, Ballast Point, Boulevard and Founders. Once my case was full I left it in the cloakroom and headed into the dizzying Mecca of ale.

Drinking with Friends

Drinking with lovely like-minded beer fans, that’s the main reason I go to GBBF. We can all get together and share our common interest. Beer is a great thing, it brings people together. It’s the perfect conversation starter…”What are you drinking?”. I do love a good bottled beer at home but sharing the experience with friends is another thing altogether.


Beats the pants off Earls Court. Not as hot and not as noisy.


Here is a collaboration review I did with the lovely Terry Kay of Beer Goggles Reviews of St Austell’s Big Job, a souped-up version of the Proper Job IPA. It was a close call whether this or Clown Shoes Galactic IPA was my favourite beer of the festival.



“A third of (insert beer name) please.”

Why do you have to specifically ask for a 3rd glass, even with my press pass I was only offered a pint or half. Come on CAMRA you should be encouraging us to drink smaller amounts of a range of beers not just pints of the same thing. We can do that in a pub, that’s why they have such a big selection. It’s a festival not a massive piss-up

“Foreign Beer?”

Yes you read that correctly, the beer served on the wonderful Biere Sans Frontier bars is still referred to as Foreign. I expected some 1970 bigoted Alf Garnet type to say “None of the foreign muck”. Isn’t “International beers” a better thing to say?

Despite being the most exciting and popular parts of the festival Biere Sans Frontier is treated like an unwanted relation.

First year I went to GBBF it was fantastic! A large “C” shape, One side German, Czech, Swedish and Danish – down the looooooong edge American cask and bottles – at the final turn Dutch and Italian. This year’s “foreign” offerings where spotted around the two main rooms. Bring it all back together!

The layout

Nothing new here…it’s a mystery why they put the beers in the order they do and an even bigger one to decipher once you’ve had a few beers.

“You can’t use that tripod without an escort!”

I took my tripod to GBBF, I put it up, I was told I couldn’t use it without an escort, I took it down, paid to put it in the cloakroom, carried around the entire next day and brought it home.

Down right bloody frustrating

One thing gets my goat more than anything else at GBBF is the selection of beer served at BSF and the supposed “system” employed by that bar.

First off I do think the selection of American cask was bigger this year but the choice on the day still remained lackluster.

I’m not expecting Three Floyds, Hill Farmstead, Bells and New Glarus, but at least represent the country you are showcasing.

Why do I want to drink British style bitters and IPAs from American breweries, there are hundreds in the festival. More barrel-aged old ales, sours, amped up Belgian-styles, barley wines, tastebuds destroying IPA…I want beer that shouts AMERICAN!

Why do he have a myriad of Pete and Jim’s Local Tap House, and Generic Brewing Co beers, if you haven’t got loads of space and have to rotate beers have a better selected choice and more of it so regardless of what day you visit you can drink the same beer as the person who comes the next day, just like you can on the British bars.

Less choice of better beers works for me, just make sure its amazing stuff and you’ve got a nice spread of styles. Look at the selection at Copenhagen Beer Celebration: Founders, Three Floyds, Hoppin Frog, Jester King, Anchorage, Firestone Walker, Kuhnhenn Brewing Co, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Surly Brewing Co, Stillwater Artisanal Ales, Westbrook Brewing Co. All winners, this isn’t just my opinion, it’s a fact!

American Beer Tasting

7 July 2013, The Sparrow Bradford

1064478_666417516706934_1405064301_oThis Sunday (7 July 2013, 4-6pm) I am hosting an American Beer Tasting event at my local craft beer bar The Sparrow in Bradford.

The Sparrow is one of Yorkshire’s best beer destinations winning multiple CAMRA awards and stocks the best beers from the UK and around the world.

Running from 1-7 July the Sparrow’s American beer week bring you some incredible craft beer from over the pond and I’ll be bringing you a selection of beers that shaped the US Craft beer landscape.

On the list of 7 beers you will drink beers from Stone, Sierra Nevada, Anchor, Flying Dog, Brooklyn and Founders. Plus on top of all that Mark from The Sparrow has offered a big corked and caged 750ml bottle of something snazzy.

I’ve lined up a one-off dry hopped bottling of an American classic that you’ve never had like this before or ever again.

Oh did I mention I’m going to delve into my cellar for some aged and rare bottles that’ll be worth the ticket price alone.

So please come over and help me drink some great American beer.


Tickets are £12 and can be bought from The Sparrow or contact them on 01274 270 772 or online via Twitter and Facebook to reserve a place.



The Sparrow’s 2nd Birthday Party

A good reason to celebrate

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The Sparrow Beir Café in Bradford has been a success on so many levels and year two is more of what they achieved in their Bradford CAMRA Pub of the Year winning debut year. Year two is marked with a 4 day celebration for another great year for The Sparrow and their native Bradford. Not only have Bradford City being to Wembley twice and won promotion but the city’s favourite beer bar has had lots to celebrate aswell.

2012 saw The Sparrow doing loads of exciting stuff but the one thing that stands out for me is food. The introduction of Street Food Fridays has brought restaurant quality food to The Sparrow’s doorstep. Street Food Fridays is now brought to you in association with Brooklyn Brewery and you can be expect great food not once but now twice a month. If you aren’t eating curry Bradford ain’t a great place to enjoy good food but these van’s are bringing the tasty by the bucket-full.

As well as kick-ass street food The Sparrow presented two sellout events with Bradford’s acclaimed Indian Vegetarian Cuisine restaurant the Prashad. Stuff your cheap cans of lager Indian food of that level deserves a quality craft beer to wash it down.

The Sparrow’s 2nd Birthday Party

So onto the big birthday party, from FRIDAY 24 MAY to MONDAY 27 MAY The Sparrow will be serving up a platter of beer, food and music…what more could you ask for?

FRI 24th MAY (11am – 12 Midnight)
*The launch of Two Scoops Ice Cream Pale Ale, our 2nd birthday beer brewed with Ilkley Brewery*
*Street Food Fridays featuring San Francisco style burritos from El Topo (4pm-10pm)*

SAT 25th MAY (11am – 12 Midnight)
*Bartender’s favourite beers sold at a discounted price*
*FREE pop-up tasting of some special beers*

SUN 26th MAY (12 Noon – 11pm)
*What The Folk? featuring live music from Serious Sam Barrett // Soulmates Never Die // Luke Hirst // Koala // Lew Walker // Wrong Side Of The Pennines. As part of Bradford Threadfest (3pm – 7pm)*

MON 27th MAY (12 Noon – 11pm)
*Schneider Weisse Day. Optional tutored tasting for £10 including samples of all beers plus German meats and cheese. Tickets available at the bar. (6pm-8pm)*

Ice Cream IPA? I've got to try that.

Ice Cream IPA? I’ve got to try that.

To commemorate the occasion The Sparrow teamed up with one of their favourite local breweries Ilkley Brewery to brew a special birthday beer. Under the watchful eye of brewster Harriet the lads from The Sparrow brewed TWO SCOOPS Ice Cream IPA. An “Ice Cream IPA” What in blue hell is that, here’s what owner Mark Husak had to say about it:

“We wanted to do a celebratory beer. Ice cream is something we’ve all had at birthday parties. A scoop is American slang for beer. Two scoops = second birthday beer. All New Zealand hops. Nelson Sauvin, Pacific Gem and Motueka. A bit of vanilla essence. A subtle hint of raspberry ripple in there. 5.9%.”


So get down to The Sparrow this Bank Holiday weekend, its going to be that good you’ll want to stay ALL . DAY. LONG!

IPA is Dead 2013



IPA is Dead? From these example it’s a bit wounded.

Earlier this week I headed over to the Brewdog bar in Leeds to sample thier latest range of single hop IPAs, IPA is Dead 2013. Three of the beers were available on tap but they’d sold out of El Dorado so I bought a bottle of that one.

First up was Dana (Slovenia), Smelt very musty, like an old dishcloth, fried onions and curry powder a very savory aroma. It tasted better than it smelt but not by much. Once again this odd savory flavour, no typical hop flavour to speak of but I got a lot of cinnamon and cardamom alongside a grassy lemon taste. Not good.

Next up to the crease was Goldings (UK) This was more like it. I spotted aromas of fresh Golden Delicious apples, chi tea, nutmeg a nice aroma but rather faint. In the mouth I picked out nettles, dried orange peel, candy floss sweetness, lingering earthy lemon bitterness and  copper coins. A decent example of how you can use this common British hop in an IPA. Personally I thought Bitches Brewing’s Graduate IPA that was also all Goldings was a million miles better.

Third was Waimea (NZ) Inital aromas of Frazzle crisps and rather musty, burnt corn on the cob. Following on to the taste of lemon peel, a hint of paravoilets, musty resin and Indian spices. Similar to Dana but slightly better, regardless I won’t be rushing back to try this hop any time soon.

Finally poured from the bottle was El Dorado (USA), the barman told me this was his favourite. By this time I’d become a bit disappointed by the whole experience.  This IPA smelt of spiced orange marmalade,  apricot, dextrose. It tasted like lychee and galia melon. Somewhat of a generic juices fruit flavour. The most drinkable if forgettable. I hoped for much better.

I did a equal mix of all four into my Teku glass, it was a bit better and filled in all the holes but still that horrible musty aroma of Dana forced its way through. Not a great set of IPAs this year. I’m always interested in these sets of beers but I can’t remember being overtly impressed by any of the complete sets but usually one or two jump out.

I will continue to visit and enjoy drinking Brewdog beers at their Leeds location but these were a bit of a waste of money.


HopZine Weekly Round-up #1

I’ve been meaning to do this for ages. As you may or may not know Hopzine lives a double life over on my YouTube channel. Even when this blog is a bit quiet I’m still posting video reviews nearly every day.

The plan for this weekly blog is to round up everything I’ve done on Youtube, post brief write-ups of my reviews and give you a one-stop shop for all your video beer review goodness.

Vampire Slayer – Clown Shoes – 10% abv

Whenever I think of Clown Shoes I think have how Greg Puckett says the brewery’s name in his accent. How can you resist this beer its called Vampire Slayer for Cliff’s sake. When I took my wife up a glass of this I played the Nerf Herder track used on the open titles for Buffy The Vampire Slayer…she’s an obsessive fan.

The beer itself is a monstrous imperial stout, black as Dave Vanian’s quiff with a decent head for a beer of such high abv. On the nose I picked out dry cocoa, prunes, raisins, bitter coffee, sticky molasses, tobacco. A mouthful of velvet-like beer washed over my palate with flavours of bitter chocolate growing to a rich roasted malt character, port, demerara sugar sweetness, a vague impression of hops finishing on a high percentage cocoa chocolate and a good whack of alcohol that wasn’t very well hidden

Clown Shoes’ 2nd Anniversary beer was a real winner and a great example of what you expect for an American Imperial stout, I loved it!.


West Coast Red – Bristol Beer factory – 5.5% abv

While rendering a batch of videos I cracked open this bottle. Dark Amber in colour. Aromas of crystal malt, filter coffee, cooking chocolate, red currents a mineral edge that reminded me of polished aluminum along with a hop bouquet of lemon and lime. After taking a swig I tasted a good amount of hops resin, crystal malt, rye bread, mild coffee,chocolate, dried fruit and a lingering grapefruit and lemon cutting hop bite. Assertive but not astringent. Solid it nothing to write home about.


Black in Japan – Brasserie de la Senne – 7.2% abv

This was the first beer I drank when I got to ’t Brugs Beertje on our first night in Bruges. The other brewery in Brussels beside the majestic Brasserie Cantillon, De la Senne produce beers with an undeniable American influence but with their feet firmly planted in Belgium. This Black IPA is as you’d expect, a black beer topped with a nice frothy dark beige head. The aroma is of liquorice, milky coffee with a lovely hop background, a cocktail of grapefruit, orange and a slight hint of pine. Pithy orange grapefruit juice, blueberry and raspberry coming from the collision of hops and dark malts. Falling away to espresso and maybe a hint of a traditional Belgian yeast, dark chocolate and lasting citric hop finish. A lovely beer! I’m a big fan of this brewery and I hope we get to see more from them over here in the UK


Madness IPA – Wild Beer Co – 6.8% abv

After seeing Zak Avery rave about this on Twitter I knew I had to try it for myself. Pale orange beer with aromas of apricot jam, lime zest, lemon peel, floral not a massive nose but what was there was nice. Once in the mouth it really opened up, flavours of big punchy resinous pine and succulent grapefruit, pineapple and a solid backbone of buttery shortbread.

Probably the best beer I’ve had from this brewery so far.


Brewdog’s Leeds bar opens!

A new craft beer destination




Last night I ventured over to the new Brewdog bar behind the Corn Exchange in Leeds. On my way home from work I popped in for a beer and to check out the brand new addition to Brewdog’s expanding bar chain on the first night of its “soft opening” two days before its properly open to the beer drinking hordes of Leeds.

I’ve been aware of its location for a while situated in the White Cloth Hall at the opposite end to Pizza Express.

It’s a funny spot, its near lots of bars that the average beer drinker would run a mile from and rather small. Just next door used to be the great record shop called Vinyl Tap, the place I used to buy records by The Damned, Sex Pistols and The Clash as a teenage. It kind of feels right I can now buy a half of Punk IPA in the location near to where I was indulging my teenage Punk Rock obsession.

The bar is pretty small but perfectly formed. Since the early plans the layout downstairs has change a lot. The stairs have been replaced by a new spiral staircase and the bar is bigger and in a different place to it was originally planned to be. Upstairs is more of a sit down affair where people can sit around enjoy something to eat (cold food only as there is not kitchen) and make a serious dent in the impressive beer list. Downstairs is for quaffing hoppy IPAs, big potent stouts and chatting as the varied but cool playlist plays over the speakers.

The beer list isn’t huge but well judged. About 6-8 Brewdog beers on tap and then 3 guests (this time it was Magic Rock Cannonball and two from Mikkeller). The bottle/can list is pretty bloody good, you can buy a good amount of one-offs and seasonals from Brewdog along side a great list of guests from Alesmith, Ballast Point, Maui, Birra Del Borgo, De Molen, Mikkeller and Green flash to name a few and all at decent prices for a bar.

I quaffed halfs of 5am Saint, Jack Hammer IPA, and a damn tasty glass of Punk IPA, for me the current batch is really hitting the mark. I did delve into the bottles with a Green Flash Le Freak that to be honest was past its best and lackluster.

The new Brewdog bar is a great addition to the Leeds beer scene and whenever I head into Town for some beers it will certainly join North Bar and Friends of Ham on my little tour around the city centre. Yes its very similar and follows Brewdog’s house-style but to be honest I rather like them.

See you at the bar, get me a half of something pale and hoppy or a bottle of Speedway Stout…but I’m not sharing hands off!


Golden Pints 2012

Rob’s Winners are…


Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer:

Winner: Magic Rock – Cannonball (keg)

Runner up: Wild Beer Co – Scarlet Fever, Magic Rock – High Wire NZ

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer:

Winner – Kernel Export Stout 1890

Runner up: Brodies Big MoFo Stout, Oakham Green Devil IPA, Kernel Pale Ale Motueka CCC

Best Overseas Draught Beer:

Winner: Stone Brewing Co – 16th Anniversary IPA

Runner up: Brooklyn Sorachi Ace

Best Overseas Bottle/can Beer:

The Alchemist – Heady Topper

Runner up: Firestone Walker – Double Jack, To Øl First Frontier and Goliat, Anchorage Galaxy White IPA,

Best Overall Beer: Magic Rock Cannonball

Best Pumpclip or Label: To Øl – Snowball Saison

Best UK Brewery:
Winner: (tie) Kernel Brewery and Magic Rock Brewing Co

Honourable mentions: Brodies, Thornbridge, Mallinsons

Best Overseas Brewery: Winner: To Øl

Pub/Bar of the Year:
Winner: The Sparrow (Bradford)

Runner up: The Grove (Huddersfield), BrewDog (Manchester), Friends of Ham (Leeds), Port Street Beer House (Manchester)

Independent Retailer of the Year: Beer Ritz

Online Retailer of the Year:
Winner: (tie) Beermerchants, Ales by Mail, Beer Ritz, Beers of Europe

Best Beer Blog or Website:
YouTube – Master of Hoppets, Real Ale Guide, TUVAR, San Diego Beer Vlog

Best Beer Festival:
Indy Man Beer Con

Best Beer Twitterer:


In 2013 I’d Most Like To… Brew better homebrew and do more on location blogging

Sorachi Ace

Brooklyn Brewery

7.6% abv

Me and the Sorachi Ace hop have a chequered history, I hated it when I first tried it in BrewDog’s first set of IPA is Dead beers and since then have never got on with it. It’s that odd bubblegum, synthetic strawberry and mint ice cream flavour I get from that I just don’t like.

But when I discovered Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace everything changed. I first tried this at a special event that the Roosters Brewery laid on for a select group last year. This beer is a perfect example of brewing expertise at its highest, selecting the correct grains, hops and yeast to compliment each other and work in precise unison.

Poured from the beautiful custom made German bottles adorned with Milton Glaser’s fantastic graphic design this beer settled in my glass a very hazy yellow just like lemon curd topped with a pure white head. It resembles a slice of lemon meringue pie in a glass.

The Sorachi Ace hop is a strange one and I think you do get some of those signature characteristics but in the best possible way. It’s certainly big on the lemon front, fresh juice, lemon thyme and sweet lemon curd. Along side this I did get some of the bubblegum I’ve noticed before with this hop but also star anise and loads of fresh dill. Very herbaceous and full of lemony goodness.

As great as this beer smells once you raise a glass to your lips that’s where the flavour-party begins. The main thread to the flavour profile is earthy lemon peel, sugary-sweet lemon curd and fragrant lemongrass. Any potential tartness and acidity is kept in check with a backbone of soft pale malts. Another delightfully well place component of this beer is a resounding herbal and spiced edge that comes in the shape of a good handful of Dill and a mild aniseed or fennel. The yeast character doesn’t overpower but plays a supporting role. The re-fermentation with Champaign yeast keeps it lively and keeps flavours zipping along.

This is absolutely world-class, a perfectly refined beer that nods towards the traditional siason style but gives it an extra dimension that makes in such a special beer…fit for the Brewmaster’s Table.


Leeds International Beer Festival 2012

My thoughts

Last night I attended the first Leeds International Beer Festival. Yep CAMRA do one in Pudsey and I have had a number of boring times there but this is new and actually in Leeds city centre.

Running until the Sunday (9th September 2012) at Leeds Town Hall, Leeds International Beer Festival have curate an interesting but small list of breweries to showcase from the UK. On the list are Magic Rock, Hawkshead, Quantum, Buxton (on one single small bar) along with individual bars for Ilkley, Kirkstall, Hardknott, Ossett, Thornbridge and oddly Timothy Taylors.

The venue was in the rather small yet grand main hall, a place where I graduated from University and also spent many evenings watching wrestling with my Grandma when I was a child. Back then it felt huge but now as an adult it seems much smaller. Bars lined the walls and a stand selling lovely treats and beer snacks from Friends of Ham stood in the middle. Along with some of the highlights from the British beer scene was a bar selling US Craft beer put on by Vertical Drinks selling the likes of Odell, Ska and lots of Sierra Nevada.

For me the venue was a bit small and badly laid out, it felt like they didn’t use the space very well. I did like how they had a small amount of food stalls indoors but you could pop outside and get some other things to eat all from high quality vendors.

There were a number of pleasant sounding indie rock/ folk bands playing on the stage. Personally I can do without live music at a beer festival, I’m there to drink beer and talk to people. I guess this was one of the key components of this festival to make it new and different, cool breweries (for the most part) and cool bands instead of some ragtime or a brass band you are likley to find at the average CAMRA festival. If the idea of making a beer festival more suitable to younger people it worked but something about it seemed a bit unfinished.


The ticketing system was a bit of a mess. You buy tickets online then queue up to give your name and postcode. Why book ahead if the queue is 10 times as long as paying on the door. The entrances were badly labeled, “Advanced Tickets” and “Box Office”. I’d bought my tickets but didn’t have a physical ticket…do I got to the box office to collect my ticket or stand in line with people holding paper tickets.


The ticket price was far too expensive; I paid £6 then an extra 50p for handling? My mate Chris paid £7 for a paper ticket from Jumbo Records. £6.50 and I just get a glass that I don’t really want? Only one size of glass too, I’ve got too many pint pots from beer festivals as it is. Id have preferred at least the option of a half glass and as this was supposed to be an alterative to CAMRA festivals why not a nice tulip glass?


We were drinking this on keg not bottles but I couldn’t find a photo of the tap front.

On to the most important thing… the beer. I’d have like to have been given an option of buying a third of each beer and my current hangover may have been lessened by that option. The beer was a bit pricey too, £2.50 a half is a bit pricey even for my beloved Kernel brewery’s pale ale. Beer Festivals usually are pretty well priced and these prices were more like bar prices. I did like the Monopoly money idea for tokens, it worked and beats the pants off those stupid cards you get at most festivals.


So what beer did I drink?

I drank mostly keg Kernel beer, I’m a massive fan of Kernel and I wasn’t going to pass up on the chance of drinking more of their beer on keg. One of the nice things about this was having cool beers with a bit of life to them unlike tepid ales from a barrel on stillage like most beer festivals. YES! That’s right a beer with a head at a beer festival…SHOCK HORROR!


Chris loves Kernel’s Export stout!

Lets get down to it.

First up was Kernel Pale Ale 4C, a wonder fresh tasting pale ale jam-packed with orange, grapefruit, mango, pineapple all the touchstones of my favourite types of beer. Next on to a beer that left quite a big impression on me when I first had it about a year ago, Kernel India Pale Ale Citra. Such a tasty IPA like a fruit bowl in a glass and dangerously drinkable for its sizeable abv.

For my next choice I moved back up North with a sampling of Ilkley Brewery’s Dinner ale, a 3.3% their version of an old Victorian style but hopped with hops from UK, New Zealand and Australia. I remember the headbrewer/owner Chris telling us about this when my homebrew group visited the brewery a couple of months ago.


This pattern continued for a while, a couple of Kernels and then something else. Back to Bermondsey we go for Kernel’s amazing Export Stout London 1890. My mate Chris is visibly giddy drinking this beer exclaiming, “This is the best beer in the world”. This beer is absolutely divine, oozing quality and rich roasted malt flavours. After another Kernel 4C I headed over to see Ann and Dave on the Hardknott stand. Very busy all night the twosome from Cumbria had a great range of beers on offer and I opted for a “Thank Chinook it’s Friday” on keg a lovely and quaffable session ale with a bit more “Oomph” and a big blast of hops.


Breaking from the routine I wandered over to the US Craft Beer bar where I nabbed a glass of Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Saison. A solid beer if a bit unremarkable.


Ending then night off I once again visited Chun at the Kernel bar hoping on another 4C Pale Ale which had just finished and been replaced by Pale Ale Columbus and very nice it was too. Finishing the night on another Export Stout London 1890.


Leeds International Beer Festival was a good first effort but was certainly flawed. I urge you to go and check it out this weekend and make your own minds up and if all else fails just go to set up camp at the Kernel bar.