Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Beer Week redux #2

Still catching up on these Beer Week posts. I needed an early night on Friday as it was up early on Saturday morning to go to the farmers’ market. Tapa organic had beer bread for sale. The stuff was in short supply as I only managed to try one of the two varieties they’d made. It was a tasty oatmeal loaf, a little crumbly and less dark than I expected porter bread to be. Sadly I have only seen pictures of the other bread, rye and red beer.

Then over to Peckham’s for the main event, one of the “beer festivals” they put on a couple of times a year. The structure is US-style rather than what we think of as a beer festival – you buy a ticket and each brewery or distributor has a table where they then pour you tasters ad lib.

The sneaky bit at these is that they don’t tell you which tables are staffed by the breweries and which aren’t. I spent a good five minutes telling one chap how great I thought his beers were, until it eventually transpired that he worked for Peckhams and knew less about the brewery than I did.

The last time I was at one of these I was very hungover and forcing myself to taste the beers in the interest of science. This year I was much more sensible.

Žatec beers were there, both the common svetlý ležák and a darker version. There was also Baronka from the same brewery, which judging by the cheap-looking label is meant to be the budget brand. I actually thought it somewhat better than the Žatec-branded pale, which you can tell is trying to be a gold standard beer but falls terribly short of the mark. The dark lager was far and away the best of the three. I didn’t know this at the time, but the brewery and their previous distributor Molson Coors have apparently parted company in the UK market, supposedly because they weren’t happy with progress. I don’t know who the brewery imagine is going to be able to pimp the stuff any more effectively here.

On the same table were some dumpy bottles from Wooden Hand Brewery; I don't remember much about those except that they were pretty poor. Barrhead's Kelburn were there at the next table with bottled Ca’Canny, a strange choice for May as it’s their winter seasonal, but hey ho. It was nice with loads of raisin flavour and I look forward to seeing it in pubs when the weather cools down again (in Glasgow, that means August).

I don't go to these event for ticks. But I do try to use them to get tastes of things that I wouldn't normally spend money on. Pacifico, for example, which tasted as expected of bugger all. Or AB:06. On principle I don’t buy BrewDog’s beer anymore, but I’ll still taste it if it’s on offer. It was a perfectly nice beer from the bottle but light years away from being worth the tenner they charge for it.

I skip Williams Bros’ table, not because I don't like their beer but because I do and hence already know their range inside out and back to front. New beers were in the pipeline but not ready. Strathaven Ales are here too; though I'm not bothered about most of their beers I do like the seasonal Summer Glow and find out that the citrussy aroma comes from orange peel as well as hops.

Lastly on Saturday was a women-only beer tasting, held at swish female-owned bar The Two Figs in the west end and moderated by the boss of WEST, Petra Wetzel. I wasn’t there, but I am assured it went very well indeed. The beers on offer were WEST Hefeweizen, Fyne Vital Spark, Williams Bros Fraoch, Harviestoun Old Engine Oil and Highland Orkney Porter – a deliberate choice to show off beers with radically different flavours and characters. We found that every beer was someone’s favourite and definitely disproved the “women only like fruity beer in a tacky glass” cliches. In fact, a quite impressive number of the ladies were going for the 9% Orkney Porter.


  1. Yep, I'd definitely rather have a Baronka than the bog-standard Žatec.

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