Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Beer of the Week: Noir de Dottignies

Dark and rick in colour, with caramel, malt, coffee and sticky herbal hops on the nose.

To taste it's well rounded, rich and velvety smooth with light carbonation. It's less sweet than expected, with a malty burnt toast character, chocolate, coffee, and very bitter hops.

9% ABV, bottle conditioned.

Available from

Monday, 24 June 2013

Pilsner Urquell launches Tank Beer at the White Horse, Parsons Green

For the first time, Pilsner Urquell have brought over their fresh Tank Beer (tankové pivo) to the UK. The beer is brewed at the Pilsner Urquell in Pilsen, Czech Republic and transported over whilst fresh, unpasteurised and dispensed in the pub via the large traditional Czech tanks.

Pilsner Urquell brewer Vaclav Berka (right) and White Horse landlord (left) at the launch of Tank Beer

The concept behind Tank Beer is great - the beer being very fresh retains the characteristics of the beer which you just don't get in the bottle. The flavour is fuller, very refreshing and balanced, but with a growing hoppy aftertaste which means it gets better the more you drink. It has a slight savory note on the nose and the aftertaste.

We also got a chance to try Milka - a foam beer drink, popular in the Czech Republic - made by manipulating the tap so that all that comes out is the head. The resulting foam tastes sweeter, although you do have to drink it quickly before the foam disappears - maybe that's the attraction!


For now Tank Beer is only available from the White Horse, but we've been reassured it will be a permanent fixture. Hopefully the popularity of Tank Beer will mean that this starts to appear in more pubs across the UK.

Seeing the glistening copper tanks (or pigs), and tasting the refreshing brew reminded us of many happy days spent with friends in Prague, where our local host showed us a fantastic time taking us to the few bars in central Prague which served the fresh tank beer, and accompanied by lots of pork and dumplings.

Na zdravĂ­!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Wine of the week: Goosecross Orange Muscat 2010

Our trip to Napa in 2011 was an exciting exploration of Californian wines and it was the wineries experimenting with varieties outside of the staple Cabernet and Chardonnay which gave us the most pleasure. One of the most exploratory of these was the wonderful Goosecross Cellars who, in addition to the typical Napa styles, produce Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc and even Tempranillo.

They also produce this delicious sweet Orange Muscat, one of eight bottles we managed to smuggle back with us in our suitcase.

It's almost colourless in the glass and as soon as you pour it you can smell the delicious, grapey intensity of the muscat grapes with a delicate floral perfume.

It tastes like fresh peaches and ripe mangos, the sweetness tempered by a brisk acidity and something of a hop like bitterness. The wine leaves your mouth coated with flavour, the tropical fruit salad lingering for an age.

It really is delicious and I heartily agree with the Goosecross recommendation instead of serving this wine with a dessert, drink it as a dessert in its own right. But it would be great with fruit or even blue cheese.

I debated whether or not to post a review of this wine, it's gonna be difficult to get hold of here in the UK, but it reminded us of our wonderful time in Napa so here it is.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Meantime Friesian Pilsener

Meantime started brewing in 2000 making them one of the oldest of the ‘new wave’ of London breweries. Meantime are also the second largest independent London brewery (after Fullers). I remember quite well their appearance on the drinking scene as it roughly coincided with our move to the London Bridge area, and we've always enjoyed their beers. We were pleased to have been invited to the launch of a limited edition Friesian Pilsner with brewer Rod Jones.

Rod is very knowledgeable and passionate about beer, and stressed that the emphasis of Meantime is on the flavour of the beer, and they focus on high quality raw ingredients, maturation, and do not pasteurise their beers. He obviously feels very strongly about the opinion (of some) that Meantime have ‘sold out’ – he pointed out that just because production has increased it doesn't mean that the quality of the beer will decrease, and that the key to keeping the quality of the beer consistent is that it is still the brewers running Meantime (not the accountants). They are fussy about their beer and the brewing process and therefore the quality of the beer hasn’t suffered. I tend to agree, and this event was a refreshing reminder of some of the beers they do best.

Meantime have 9 beers in their standard range and then brew a limited edition seasonal special every two months. They also have a microbrewery where they get to experiment with some of their wackier recipes. It is very interesting to hear that Meantime buy some of their hops three years in advance to ensure they get some of the more popular varieties they need.

So onto the beer. The limited edition Friesian Pilsener is brewed in a North German style – these tending to be lighter in colour, hoppier and more bitter then the Southern German pilsners. It’s been made with 100% pilsner malt, and they use Perle hops at the start (for bitterness) then Tettnang in the boil and at the end, using German brewing techniques. The maturation (or lagering) of this beer is 5 to 6 weeks.

This beer really delivers on flavour, which creeps up on you before you realise. At first it is refreshing, but hoppier than you’d normally expect from a pilsner, with a crisp bitterness and a complex finish. Rod describes it as a session beer, balanced, dry and drinkable – simple, but that’s what makes it such a popular style of beer. The hops grow as you get further down the glass, starting subtle and then get more intense the more you drink. It paired well with most of the food we tasted, and especially well with the cheese which was a surprise. 

It was very interesting to experience this classic style of lager with Rod, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of brewing and its history. Just don't talk to him about hip hop.

This seasonal brew will be on sale at the Greenwich Union and The Old Brewery for a limited period.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Wine of the week - 2010 P.F, Bodegas Ponce, Manchuela

In Shepherds Bush, opposite the Westfield "Temple of Consumerism", is a delightful secret. A little independent reminder that it's worth fighting for the little guys. The bustling Albertine wine bar has been selling great wine for decades and is a favourite for an after-work glass for the local BBC staff. In fact one drink has been known to turn into many glasses for me and my colleagues. The wine list has so many interesting and quirky wines by the glass and the bottle that it's difficult to leave it at just one.

When the Real Wine Fair was on back in March, Albertine joined in the celebration of natural wine with an inspired selection of wines from the fair. During a evening of sampling these fascinating wines, one of them impressed us so much that we had to take a bottle home with us.

This wine was the 2010 P.F (Pie Franco) from Bodegas Ponce in Manchuela. It's made from a tiny number of very old ungrafted Bobal vines and the intensity of this wine is testament to both the quality of those vines and the skill of the winemaker, Juan Antonio Ponce.
It has a huge nose that takes your breath away with bags of blackcurrant, black pepper and herbs . There are focused and almost overwhelming flavours of black fruits and spice but balanced with a hint of creamy vanilla, while the acidity and medium tannins give it a great structure and long lingering finish.

P.F might still be available from Albertine but is also available from Wine Direct, Roberson wine and is imported by Indigo Wine.