Sam & I spent last weekend in Leeds at the European Beer Bloggers Conference 2012, sponsored generously by Molson Coors. These are just some brief notes and photos from the event - Sam will be following up with his top 5 beers of the conference soon.
The conference venue at the Met Hotel Leeds - the event started with a trade show and beer tasting featuring Molson Coors, Brains, Williams Bros Brewery, St Stephanus, Shepherd Neame, SIBA, Badger, Spiegelau, and Marstons (apologies if I've missed anyone off this list). Afternoon sessions covered beer blogging in Europe, improving your beer writing, and a technical session on blog platforms and website design (my personal favourite).
We then went on to a comparative beer & glass tasting with Spiegelau - I was dubious about this one (and equally skeptical about similar claims made regarding wine glass shape and the effect on taste), but I'm willing to admit that the examples we had did demonstrate some subtle differences in taste dependent on the glasses being drunk from. They are also rather fetching glasses!
We then moved onto dinner (I forgot to take photos other than the above). The menu was matched by Stuart Howe with the new Sharp's range, Connoisseurs Choice - all designed to be paired with food. First up was an aperitif of Sharp's Single Brew 2011(4.5% ABV). To start we had a salad of poached pear, watercress and minted melon paired with Sharp's Honey Spice IPA. The main course was hake served with a light horseradish and pea cream sauce paired with Sharp's Honey Spice Tripel (10% ABV), and dessert was banana and rum toffee tart served with Sharp's Quadrupel (10% ABV). A digestif of Sharp's Turbo Yeast IV ended the meal (a bit like marmite - you either loved it or hated it), and led us into the night of international beers where we tasted some great examples of what Europe has to offer (sadly it seems not many of them are available/imported into the UK). My beer of the night was L'Equilibrista from Birra del Borgo - a champagne sour ale, made with 39% Sangiovese wine wort fermented with wine yeast and then re-fermented with champagne yeast. It reminded me of a good quality gueuze similar to those we tasted at Cantillon last year.
The following day we had talks on taking blogging to the next level, social media and your blog, and the current state of the hop industry, before the keynote speech from Stuart Howe, head brewer at Sharp's.
Keynote speech from Stuart Howe
We then went into the live beer blogging - 10 beers in 50 minutes, described as speed dating for beer bloggers. It was a bit too fast paced for me to blog anything, so have a look at Sophie Atherton's posts here, here and here. A few of my tasting notes are below;
Slater's controversial Top Totty (4.0% ABV) - a bunnygirl-free pump clip is also available!
Camden Town's USA Hells (unfiltered, a limited release brew) - wow, this was really good. I didn't really rate the Hells Lager when I tasted the regular version, but this was delicious and a revelation, with a deep flavour and fuller body. Apparently they are due to release a sour beer soon (summer 2012) - I can't wait to try it.
Adnams' Ghost Ship (4.5% ABV) - based on an old recipe for Deathly Pale Ale, a citrussy pale ale, easy drinking and refreshing. And there's this fab video too;
Innis & Gunn's Oak Aged Scottish Pale Ale (7% ABV) - aged in bourbon barrels for 41 days to add flavour and residual alcohol. My first ever taste of an Innis & Gunn beer, not too bad, but too sweet for my taste, the flavour coming across as muddled.
Leeds Brewery's Hellfire (5.2% ABV) - designed to appeal to a wider market, to be swigged from the bottle and to appeal to a younger demographic. This had a crisp citrus flavour, with bitterness and hops which follow on and build - a bit too hoppy for me.
Otley's Oxymoron (5.5% ABV) - a Welsh black cask IPA. Citrus, chocolate and coffee, hops and roasted malts, this was refreshing and much lighter than I'd imagined it would be.
Brains' Dark (4.1%) - apparently this has to be drunk with a Clarks pie, and is thier longest running beer (since 1882). This is 3.5% on cask and I can imagine it would be a great session beer. Lighter than imagined, but full on flavour, with chocolate, liquorice and treacle notes. It was also a pleasure to meet the lovely Ffion.
From Marble; a collaboration Earl Grey IPA (with Emelisse) (6.8%) - the nose was strong on hops, but it wasn't as strong on taste (a relief for me), made with Earl Grey tea.
From Roosters we tasted Baby-Faced Assassin (6.1%) - a cask ale (sorry no photo) with a thick creamy head, it was hoppy but mellow and very easy-drinking, with a creamy mouth feel. They also mentioned a collaboration with Odell's which will be available from July 2012.
And finally, Great Heck's Stormin' Norman (6.5%) - hoppy, caramel and citrus notes and malty, catering to the pub crowd, with low carbonation and a moderate bitterness. I'm afraid my notes are vague as beer fatigue had set in by this point!
After a quick breather we moved onto a Czech feast - dinner at Anthony's at the Corn Exchange, sponsored by Pilsner Urquell. We were greeted by some freshly poured Pilsner, and Anthonys' staff wandered around with slates laden with tasty treats.
The barrel of unfiltered Pilsner Urquell is cracked open.
Settled down for dinner with Sophie, Marv, the girls from Brains, Steve (not pictured) and the lovely Allan from Zephyr.
Starter - onion soup
Traditional pretzel stacks
Main - grilled salmon...
...and goulash - yum!
Ffion & Sam pouring the perfect glass of Pilsner Urquell
After the meal we were split into two teams and herded off to the after party/pub crawl.
Sunday was the eagerly awaited Magic Rock visit, with tours, tastings and BBQ
I wish I had one of these in my garden.
All in all a fantastic but exhausting three days. Huge thanks to Elle and Allan for organising such a good weekend.