I picked on of these up a few trips ago. We have visited Cooperstown Brewing Co. which is not in Cooperstown but at a very nice depot next to the operating tourist railway line in the slightly less baseball crazed neighbouring community of Milford. I have liked and not so liked their brews but thought I'd give this one a try - and not just because of the soccer playing dog on the label. That is just a little bonus.
The brew pours a really attractive mahogany with a massive souffle of a beige head on top. Though an upstate NY brown, it is more in the style of a southern English moreish one than a sour northern English one or a hoppy US-style one. There are notes of powdered cocoa, a slight bit of sweet fruit and nuts in the middle and a nice creamy chalky yeasty presence underneath. There is a nicely placed structural use of hops that is really not that bitter all all. Medium bodied. This is likely the best beer I have had by Cooperstown.
With a large student and academic population, I figured out that this could be the goal of a day trip from London – focused on beer, but not exclusively so. So the plan was to catch a few pubs and sample a few rare beers as well as taking in the more famous sights. The ordeal of navigating the London Tube in the morning rush hour was compensated by a very pleasant direct train connection from King's Cross. The ticket was cheap and the direct train took only 45 minutes. I strolled into the city centre from the railway station, and was just in time for a splendid two hour guided walk along with a dozen other tourists. We got to see quite a lot, including the chapel of King's College and the impressive library at Trinity. These walks take place daily throughout the year and with expanded options during the summer – google for Cambridge tourist to find the details. After walking around for several hours in rather cold winter weather, a pint of Black Sheep Bitter and a steak and kidney pudding was just the thing to get some warmth back in my bones. I had lunch at a pub called the Mitre - with slightly warmer weather I would probably have looked around a bit longer. Both the food and the beer were perfectly all right, if not outstanding.
This is an area dominated by the Geene King brewery, but at least some of their pubs stock guest beers from other brewers in addition to their own range. Caldeonian 80 shillings was the Scottish ale available at the Champion of the Thames, an unspoilt pub a few minutes away from the city centre. I won't bore you with my shopping round, but after that I went to the Castle, another Greene King pub. It was very quiet in the afternoon, despite being located on a busy street. It seems like the drinkers here are stuck to the tradition of drinking at lunchtime and in the evening, and not in between. That explains why so many pubs still close for a few hours between sessions.
The real gem of my day in Cambridge was the Live and Let Live. A real local, and a real free house, too, not being tied to a brewery or pub chain. They had seven real ales and a real cider on tap. I had a pint of Greedy Pike, a splendid bitter from the Nethergate Brewery. Rich nutty taste, very well hopped, with the hops leaving a pleasant dry aftertaste. No blaring music here, just peaceful conversation. This is the English pub we all would want tucked away down at the end of our road. I have to add that I would never have found this without the help of the CAMRA guide to the pubs in the Cambridge area, available from the beer-inn print mail order shop.
I finished off with a Damson porter with a vedge of Stilton. This is fairy light for a porter. It looks almost pitch black, but when you study it closer you have the purple plum colour shining through a bit. It is the same with the taste of the plums, they are there in the background to make this a really pleasant brew. This porter, from the Burton Bridge brewery, wherever that might be, ought to be bottled and given a wider distribution.
A quiet weekend around here as I was off in central New York state picking up some more beer to keep your insatiable appetite for my views on brews fed...or at least watered. Also quiet because I've been muttering under my breath about another digital camera that has died on me. For the short term I will be being a little creative on the visuals. Like today with the brewery's logo for Hop Wallop Ale from Victory Brewing in Dowington, Pennsylvania.
I picked this up at the ever reliable and interesting Finger Lake Beverage Center in Ithaca New York whose selection of products on the shelf is quite stunning. I was asked by the staff which shops I would be hitting while south of the border and I said just theirs as I have yet to run out of things to write about. I really have not looked at their German or UK stock and I hardly had the nerve to go too heavily into the Belgians - though I picked up a few Christmassy ones for a month from now. I did ask if they had any Victory Storm King Imperial Stout and was told, no, but that the "Hop Wallop" was in.
Well, I am not one to see that one door opening usually means another closes...or...whatever...but I was quite impressed with this brew - especially its label. And not for Yosimite Sam or whatever they are calling the old miner guy but the style "very hoppy ale". This is quite a relief. Not an IPA or a double IPA or an ESB or one of the other structured and recognized style but simply "very hoppy ale". Not even VHA. When you look at the ingredients this level of heresy goes deep: an 8.5% with imported german malts and american whole flowers in a pale ale. Sounds simple enough but what is it? Too hoppy for Kölsche, too Teutonic for best bitter, too pale and light for an India Pale Ale.
This ale pours golden straw with a snow white head. I imaigine it wouldn't be that different from a Canadian macro ale if I had one around to compare it with. On the mouth there is no doubt it is not with a cream, hop and heat in quick succession and a long drying finish. It is a spectacularly well made brew hiding the level of 8.5% better than maybe any other ale I have tried. The malt is slightly sweet, some notes of pear juice and grainy in the style of a real pale ale. There is no raisiny crystal malt or notes of other roastier malts added for texture and complexity. This is simpler ale, showcasing a large body of hops over plain bread-crusty barley. The hops are green and then citrus and then spiced in clear sequence. Only then the heat comes through opening and sustaining along a long drifting conclusion.
Loverly. 98% of BAers approve but those who do not find a pineapple smell.
Myrick the Asiapundit and one of our corrspondents from China has a post up about the role China's oldest brewer, Harbin Beer, is playing in the disaster in that city. Harbin's river and water supply has been contaminated with benzene but the brewery has deep wells and bottling facilities which have been brought into production to aid the citizenry. The same capacity for brewers to supply safe water has been seen this year in Sri Lanka and, I believe, New Orleans as well.
Just a note on a vanity of mine...
Please vote for both this here A Good Beer Blog and our sister station Gen X at 40 at the Canadian Blog awards. I think both are up for best blog - which risks splitting the vote and letting the mighty Flea sneak through. We of the beery set are up for best group blog and best culture blog and the Tantrama City posts from Gen X at 40 are up for best series. This is a two round competition with the top five in each going on.
As I crave shallow adoration this is the perfect fit for me.
I really do not know about the move to 24 hour open all day and all of the night drinking in England. The BBC has a good article this morning on the debate:
Shadow culture secretary Theresa May... said it was of "great concern" that a "significant number, if not a majority" of premises that would have 24-hour drinking were supermarkets and petrol stations, which she said were often frequented by underage drinkers. She concluded that the change "will lead to more disorder", adding that "government ministers have accepted that there will be more crime as a result of these laws".While it is very difficult to observe one culture's point of view on the drink and I am not one to race to the line up under the sign that says "prudes", there is an aspect to this which is beyond personal liberty that seems to be is entirely abandoning what I would think would be the limits of prudent management given what alcohol actually does. Do you really need drinking at supermarkets and petrol stations? And who needs a "social life" at 4 am or 9 am? Is the teen aged clerk trained to cut the guy off at the gas station at 7:45 am before he gets in the car?
But Mark Hastings from the British Beer and Pub Association welcomed the changes. He said: "We've been saying for a long time that the result of this change would be a relatively modest increase in overall licensing hours, that 24-hour opening was an urban myth, and certainly 24-hour drinking would be an urban myth. What we're actually seeing is that at last in this country adults are going to be treated like grown-ups and given a little bit of choice about having a social life beyond 11 o'clock at night."
Your comments would be interesting on this one.
Thou mayest click on for greater illumination
I have to say that I have really enjoyed everything I have had by the Middle Ages Brewing Co. of Syracuse NY from trips to pubs and the odd beer I have brought back. But last time I was in a central New York beer shop I realized that there is more to life than Syracuse Pale Ale, Kilt Tilter, Wailing Wench and Druid Fluid. Odd to think that - for a micro - there are seven more ales to try when I have already supped and loved four. Then I check the list over at Beer Advocate and there are eleven more to go after these - 22 in all. Ambitious brewers.
To maintain the tradition and tastes of English ales of the Middle Ages, the brewery uses two-row malted barley imported from Munton and Fisson Plc., in Stowmarket, Suffolk, England. The malt is germinated barley that has been kiln dried. "Our yeast strain is a direct descendent of brewing yeast originating in Yorkshire, England. It has been cultivated for the past 150 years," [owner/brewer] Marc [Rubenstein] said. We figure it should bear a resemblance to the Medieval yeasts." Middle Ages Brewing harvests its yeast from batch to batch, mixing it with warm beer to activate it.Interesting to note that Marc trained at the beloved Shipyard Brewing of Portland, Maine and brought its strain of the Ringwood...not "Ringwood" but "the Ringwood"...yeast. Lew Bryson in his New York Breweries (you have bought your copy, haven't you?) has some good things to say and like me, loves the Druid Fluid barley wine. He also notes being dragged to the Blue Tusk by Marc to try the ImPaled Ale cask conditioned on tap:
"You don't have to have the cask," he assured me. "You can have whatever you want. But I'd really like you to try it." As if I'd want anything else! The cask of ImPaled Ale they served up at the Tusk was delicious, with the soft carbonation I've become fond of. The real beauty of cask ale is that the cool serving temperatures and the lack of fiziness lets more of the hidden flavour of the beer come through.I might as well start with the bottle of Middle Age's take on the Imperial Pale Ale and see if it is truely English or more in the northeast US style.
- ImPaled Ale: A light tan lace-leaving head sits over active amber-orange ale. For a nor'easter, it is a notch below biggest in terms of body but there is a mass of chewy hops, some twiggy but mostly candy-cane green-herbed goldings amongst which the 6.5% sits quietly. The water is soft. There is a rich roundness to the malt rather than a pale malt graininess. The Ringwood is there, more subdued than in, say, Shipyard's Chamberlain Pale Ale. It provides a bit of spice as well as a biscuity note well suited for an IPA. BAers say 97% yea.
- Beast Bitter: described as a special bitter, this is a degree less intense than the IPA above, as is the natural order of things - perhaps a third of the way towards the fruit-malt gentleness of their SPA. No where near as big as Nova Scotia's Propeller ESB. Beastly white foam sits over lighter orange ale. There is a citrus note over some twig which sets the brew apart as well. No raisiny notes but some fruit to join the hops in a tangerine thing, just and good. Within the hop, pale malt graininess sits quietly in the shadow of the star - the sharp ex luplis confectam acid. The BAers gave up one more point to give it a 98% rating.
- Grail Ale: This beer pours a tan head over a medium mohogany ale. The brewery calls this an amber ale but I think it is too dark for that and, besides, I am thinking of a lighter form of that old chestnut Old Peculier by Theaksons. There is a treacle note to Grail Ale over graininess and some sweet malt. Also the hop is primarily twiggy bracing but not cutting through the malt. Plummy. Dates, too and maybe a bit of chocolate. Perfect use of the Ringwood. Kind of reminds me of Unibroue's Trois Pistoles as well in the plummy note by not the strength. BAers say 97% up.
- The Duke of Winship: an interesting ale descrobed by the brewery as having the softness of a Scotch ale and the malt profile of porter. The beer pours deep mahogany-garnet under a light brown head. A pronounced fruity chocolate aroma. In the mouth, there is a round soft brown sugar and plum wave up front which goes into coffee and onto maybe chocolate before a long drying finish of slightly astringent hops. A very interesting and singular ale. I don't think there is enough black malt to make it a Scotch ale but it does not pretend it is and, let's be frank, there is many a bad beer out there that abides by the style guidelines. 96% of BAers approve. And I only got the Ringwood on the swish of the final sip. Loverly.
- Wizard's Winter Ale: An off white head resolving to a rim over deep amber orange ale. With the first sip I have an immediate sense of a sort of Scotch ale with soft water and orange marmalade, from the combination of fruity malt and citrusy hops, along with a layer of slightly smoked and burtn toast of black malt. The body is rich with a great cream texture and leaves a warm comforting finish. The brewery calls it their version of a British strong ale which, at 6.8%, is reasonable. Only 2% of BAers deny this its place.
- Triple Crown: amber straw ale with a thin white rim of foam. Not much nose but rich orange - peel and marmalade - heat. There is lots of fruit in the malt and if I have learned anything from this is the is ability Middle Ages has to coax these notes from the malt - cherry, pear and apricot. Really nice. There are two clearly distinct hop notes: green on the tongue and twig at the back of the mouth with the hear. At 10% it ought to have heat but it is so well balanced that it does not stand out. The overall effect is not unlike a tonic. Lots of herbs and spice like, say, a strong gin in a way or like a Scandinavian bread with orange peel and anise...but I don't mean those not those flavours. Thick with taste but not bombastic. Big balance. Very nice.The brewery says they were trying for a Belgian triple with British ingredients. 97% of BAers are with them though the comparison with a triple does not work for me - two styles which are too distinct. Still, quite fine ale.
- X - 1995 to 2005: This is Middle Ages' 10th anniversary ale. It pours orange amber with a rich foamy off-white head. The nose is massive of Goldings, like opening a packet of hop pellets. This ale is big twig bitter, orangey, hot and juicey. Typical of Middle Ages, there is a rich buttery biscuit heart - in this case enveloping the heat. The effect is immersive and huge, honeyed and botanical combining like the Scots liqueuer Drambuie but, even more so, a true hop bath to the point of souring the stomach a tad with those lovely flowery acid. Every BAer approves this ale.
An exhibit opens this week in London, England which provides evidence as to the drinking habits of the locals from around 1300 AD:
Experts have uncovered evidence that 12th century Londoners drank ale by the gallon, starting at breakfast time, due to poor quality drinking water. Exhibits at the Museum of London, including a selection of old Toby jugs, depict tubby men with beer bellies. London's many drinking dens entertained 'immoderate quaffing by fools', according to a writer of the time.Here is the website for the museum's new exhibit. That would be an interesting place for a correspondent to visit. Any takers?