Category: Malt Musings

Pliny The Elder 2016

Many a year ago I got my hands on a Pliny The Elder. A hugely well reputed IIPA from America. However, since I am in the UK, it took a while to get to me, so many people shared the opinion that it would be far past its best.

Fast forwards to this year, 2016, when Christian from Independent Spirit got his hands on some super fresh bottles of this beer – the last of which he found he still had about a month later, when he feared it would soon be past its best. Being the kind person he is, he passed the bottle to me to enjoy before that terrible fate happened.

So, I have now tried a, if not super fresh, still pretty impressively fresh, Pliny in the UK! It still has the same base notes as that beer I experience all those years ago, but is so much bigger. It comes in faster, and has a more showy character that the older beer lacked. Far more pine, resiny hops – the malt still there but less evident with the fresher hop up front. Some orange was present, though Christian mentioned that was far more evident when it was fresh.

I’m not going to do another set of notes, as the base notes are similar, but wow this gives it an extra level of punch and takes a beer I already very much appreciated and shoved it up a notch.

Many thanks again, and this has just renewed my certainty that one day I will try it super fresh in the USA, and possibly even, may I dare to hope, Pliny The Younger.

Drinks By The Dram Whisky Calender
Ok, I am breaking my rule. I have a rule. No talking about Christmas until at least December. It is now November. However these are special circumstances. In a nigh The Culture level intervention scale.

Hey I’m allowed to make “The Culture” references. Iain Banks was a huge whisky fan. It is thematically linked.

Anyway, no talking about Christmas until December, but… When Chris Scullion of Bath Whisky and Rum Club, which is now part of the Independent Spirit store asks for your assistance in doing tasting of twenty four whiskies you do not say no because of a mere point of pride.

So, Masters of Malt, the people behind Drinks By the Dram, have provided him with a copy of the advent calendar. And for the mere cost of my aid in putting up our notes on Alcohol and Aphorisms I am invited to add my thoughts on half of each bottle. Many thanks to both Masters of Malt and Chris, it is an honour.

So, the notes themselves will be going up as and when we manage to drink them, but for now a quick glance at what is coming up. I’m going to put this behind a click to see more in case people have this and don’t want the surprise ruined.

WARNING: I will be putting up the notes over the next few weeks, so if you want avoid spoilers you may want to take care on browsing the blog until we are done.
Continue reading

Ok. A while back I covered Brewdog’s response to a petition for them to take down one of their advertising videos. Since their notapology they came out with “No Label”. Basically a stunt beer with money going to LGBT charities.

I was a bit torn, despite working with the queerest of the queer, the ad copy seemed very tone deaf. Also putting out a PR stunt claiming to be pushing for trans rights after utterly refusing to listen to their voice earlier seemed, well, tacky to say the least.

In the end I grabbed a few bottles, deciding that, with money going to charity, it was worth supporting an effort, flawed though it may be. However, I am starting to rethink – mainly after reading this excellent article by Julia of The Beer Queer tumbler

I’d recommend everyone take a read as it covers everything far better than I could

Aged Tap Out Dark Abbey

Been a while since I’ve done one of these – Back when I tried this beer two years ago I loved it, and with it being a limited run I thought I had best grab one to age while it was still around. So – here we are, how has the beer done?

Well, the flavours have definitely risen to the task. Huge raisins, huge chocolate, some smoke, big vinous notes, figs. These days it is tasting closer to a Quad than the Dubbel it was close to in its youth. The texture, which was quite smooth young, us now noticeably lighter – it creates an odd contrast between the light mouthfeel and the booming complex flavours.

Because of that it has both improved and lessened – It really needs a bit more body now, to emulate a Quad in feel as well as flavour, however the flavours are exceptional. It really uses the sour notes and smoke.

The beer has become polarised, very similar to how it was before but the lighter elements much lighter and the heavier elements much heavier. When it was young it was probably balanced better and therefore the better beer. I am glad however that I tried ageing it as this gave a much cleaner way to experience the flavours so is a different experience.

Not a perfect ageing, but not a waste of a few years.

On That Brewdog Issue.

Ok, since I did my article criticising Brewdog, some people have asked me if I will still be buying and noting their beers. The answer is, for the moment, yes. I am disappointed with their actions on that event, and wary of some of the priorities when it came to other parts of their Equity For Punks 4 progress, but so far they haven’t done enough to get on my banned brewery list.

For information the only two Breweries on that list are Rogue Brewing, for utterly shite treatment of their employees, and London Fields Brewing for using the brewery to get out of repaying money gained from cocaine smuggling.

Brewdog aren’t that bad yet by far, and I do respect other things they have done – the living wage for all employees for one. As I said in the original article doing this crappy thing now doesn’t wipe out the good they have done, nor does that good excuse any crappy acts they take.

I have noticed that I have picked up less of their stuff than usual, but that is less an active boycott and more, well, just a reaction to the fact that I feel less excited about supporting them because of their acts, so have been more likely to grab other beers when the urge takes me.

So, that’s the situation.

A Serbian Beer Scene

Outside My Hat

Ok, that was possibly the loosest “A Serbian Movie” reference I could make in the title. I will try harder next time. Anyway, in Belgrade for a few days visiting friends, so I thought I would sketch out some notes.

The beer scene here trends heavily towards lager, mixed dark and light – quality wise it is above Carling and Stella, much less fizzy and with a better body, but there it is not up there with the Czech Republic or Poland for stand out standard quality of beer. I was here about six to eight years ago and Jelen used to a pretty solid good quality lager, and has become more mediocre by now – a fact that has been bemoaned oft by locals here. The lager isn’t as bad as the general UK scene, but it isn’t worth hunting out for the beer alone. The general atmosphere of drinking is pretty nice though – table service, relaxed atmosphere. For general every day kafana relaxing I would say try the local drink, rakia. It can vary from fire water to a genuinely smooth and very drinkable spirit. Standard version here is made with plums, but from my experience here if you can find quince rakia it is far superior. If you know any locals the aged home made versions can be awesome as well.

Definitely take advantage of the meat dishes in kafanas, food and drink is cheap as hell and the meat dishes are utterly lovely. I’ve had awesome goulash, and piled high dishes to share. A pint is generally less than a quid fifty, and a good meal will not cost more than a tenner, most cost me five quid. For the local experience a ton of Rakia, and a heap of meat is the way to go. Sorry vegetarians, but this place really does not work well for you.

There is however the start of a Craft scene in Belgrade, I’ve seen a seriously good range of imported beers popping up in specialist shops, but more importantly – they have at least one brew pub! Kabinet Brewing – I got to visit it, very stripped down utilitarian kind of coffee shop looking place – great bottle selection from around the world, and I got to try a couple of their beers – a very fresh tasting porter, almost lemon touched – a smooth Belgian style beer and more. I have one tap review to go up and a bottle to taste when I get home.

I don’t really have enough info to do one of my usual travel notes on the beer scene, but I thought I would do a quick post to the birth of the Belgrade craft beer movement.

Catch ye when I get home, and until then enjoy your drink!

Kabinet Brewing

Ok, Disclaimer out of the way up front. I am a Brewdog shareholder. Which makes recent week’s events even more annoying for me. They’re pushing the latest wave of the whole Equity For Punks thing so they can expand faster and they turn out this vid.

Now, at the time I found it pretty tone deaf. The co-owners of a brewery that is worth millions comparing themselves to begging on the streets. It inspired a shake of my head but nothing more.

Thing is, a few people it proper pissed off. And I can see that, it didn’t offend me, but I can see why it offended them. So, a petition popped up asking them to take down the vid as it was, to their eyes, mocking trans people, sex workers and the homeless.

Now, again I was not offended myself, but yeah, I can see that viewpoint – it wasn’t my reading but I can see that. So, best of luck to them.

Now this is where things turn shitty. Because all Brewdog had to do was go “Crap, sorry, didn’t mean that, we trod on a few sore nerves we didn’t intend to by accident. Thanks for letting us know. We shall get on that”

And all would be happy. Cos, frankly, all people generally want is to be heard and respected. Treated like human beings, right? And that is what I expected them to do, as, well, years ago they did a video where they used “gay” as an insult, and when I pointed out that was pretty darn harmful to people growing up working out who they are, they changed the video. Cool on them. So, did they do that?

No. No they didn’t.

What follows are a few screenshots from the Equity For Punks shareholder forum.


So, James, co founder of Brewdog decides to compare this to being offended by mayonnaise. Because of course dehumanisation of mayonnaise is a common problem that leads to people being violently assaulted, raped, and killed. Oh wait, no it fucking isn’t.

So, then James decides that this petition can’t matter because.

James Stats 1

Oh, ok, no one has watched the vid, so they are just going by what they are told, except, well the video is in multiple places on the internet and one of them has 24K views. So what does James say when informed that his assumption was incorrect – does he acknowledge his mistake?

James stats 2

Hahah. No. Apparently we can assume no one has watched the video because. Well James says so. With no evidence whatsoever. This is where I am starting to genuinely get annoyed myself. It is one thing to make a mistake, that happens to us all. It is another to completely ignore voices against you, dismissing them as basically rent an offended who haven’t even watched the video, just because they disagree with you. Sex workers,trans people and the homeless are often people denied a voice, and when they speak out and people speak out for them – you dismiss that voice? That genuinely offends me.

So, what we see next is what seems to sum up James’ misunderstanding of the situation in my mind.

James Social Justice

This is, of course, referring to the fact they did a beer against Putin’s anti LGBT polices and donated money to LGBT causes. Which is great. Genuinely great, Except… Doing good things in the past doesn’t negate bad things you do in the future. Doing bad things in the past doesn’t mean you can’t do good things in the future. Every act stands alone.

There is this pervasive idea in out culture that there are the good people, and the bad people, and any criticism is trying to put you in the bad people box. There aren’t. There are just people. Complete racists can have one friend of a different ethnic group they look out for. People who fight for social justice can slip up and say something offensive, or hold bigoted views on immigration.

None of us are 100% perfect and none are 100% monsters. When people point out you have done something wrong, they aren’t generally on some great kick to label you a monster worse than Hitler. They just want to be heard. All you have to do is listen, and learn from your mistakes, that is all.

It is worth noting that Stonewall, who are one of the people who you donated to, are asking you to cut that shit out.

You respect their opinion right? That is why you donated to them, not just as some cheap marketing gimmick for publicity right? Then please listen.

Your response Brewdog, is just basically a bunch of words making out that the people against you are just offended for fun, and again, dismissing the voices you once claimed to stand for, because suddenly it is inconvenient.

Your defence is often that you are a punk, fun loving brewery – well, to quote Anti flag

“You’ve mistaken the punk scene for the Republican convention”

The video was tone deaf to me, your response has genuinely pissed me off – and I say this as someone who has a long history of being a fan.

Please, Brewdog, James, Listen to people. You used to do that, when did you become so big that you decided to stop? Apologising, learning, doesn’t make you lesser, It makes you the better person. Please listen.


So, to not end on such a down note. Scroobius Pip has done an excellent podcast with Tall Dark Friend, which covered her music and trans topics.

It also has her excellent tune “In Heels” on it – check it out


Ok, been a bit of gap there. Sorry about that. Been out having fun,,er,,,I mean doing hard research. In Vancouver at the moment. After the absolutely amazing mountain views I have to admit to being happy to be somewhere a bit more built up.

So. Important things first Nanaimo Bars are awesome.

Ok. Important things out of the way. Oh, also there is a Japadog stand. Japanese style hot dogs. No I have no idea what that means. May have to try them.

Anyway, beer scene is a bit more familiar here. In that there is tons of it. I got lost, bumped into a brewpub and so grabbed a quick half there whilst asking for directions. Good times. Also more experimentation going on here, I’ve been seeing more sours, more infused beers, more funky yeast tricks and such like. For most of the nights I’ve been in Canada people have been telling me to check out Steamworks beers, so now I’m here it is time to do so, but I have run into some pretty impressive stuff so far. Bottleshops don’t seem to pack as large a range as I am used to, but tap houses are running some impressive lists.

Beer sized are odd though. I’ve seen pints at 16, 18, and 20 fluid ounces, .40L and .45L measures, frankly anything. All good as long as you keep track but it can be confusing.

Also I’ve been drinking tons of water. It is far too bloody hot here for a Yorkshireman.

Back home soon and I can start putting up the notes.

Until next time, enjoy your drink. Here is Darth Vader playing a fiddle. Because of course.

Darth Vader Playing A Fiddle


Wow. Just wow. Banff National Park is breathtaking. Aquamarine blue water, towering mountains. Heading a few hours out to walk on ice fields. Wow.

Ok, that sounded almost cultured. I need to rein that back in. Ahem, obviously the most important thing about those ice fields is the super clean water from it that can be used to make beer.

There, back on topic.

Something else I have noticed about Canadian beer, it seems to follow the USA craft movement style wise, but in a more mellow fashion – the flavours seem to be emphasised over pushing extreme bitterness or abv. Also so far they seem way less carbonated that the USA scene, which I kind of approve of, it makes it easier to sit and enjoy without feeling gassy. So far the range of beers doesn’t seem as experimental, they seem to work around the core styles – but I still have a lot of land to cover so that may change.

It’s been a three day weekend here so everywhere has been packed, especially Grizzly Paw brewpub – thanks to all the staff there for being so awesome friendly despite being rushed off their feet. Also thanks to The Banff Ave Brewpub, again great staff and they give massive samples for you to make up your mind from – they also let me into the brewing area to take some photos – all much appreciated.

Speaking of Grizzy, I ran into a (non Grizzly) bear. I am also not dead. Go me.

Right, off on the next stage of the trip – Until next time, enjoy your drink.


Tim Hortons

Yeah, it is that time again, where I shoot off to a new country and pretend it is research for the blog. In this case CANADA! Woo!

Just in Calgary at the mo, moving on soon. I am slowly getting over my paranoia that everyone being so nice to me is in fact a huge long running dry sarcastic prank. I am starting to think they may actually just be friendly and polite.

I am not used to this.

Few quick thoughts beer wise. Summer is here and the weisse, lager and IPA seem to rule the roost. Stouts and other such dark beers seem extremely rare. With the weather I can see why, but I do miss the old dark and heavy. Also what is cool is they do a lot of fruit infused beers, seems to go well with the summer style, grapefruit, pineapple, cherry, lots of good stuff. So far they seem well balanced as well, adding to rather than dominating the beer. This is, however, based on just one nights drinking.

Also, if you are ever here, try the beer revolution craft beer and pizza bar. The staff are awesome nice, the beer list is great and … Holy fuck, the pizza. I had a Blazing Saddles. You know that scene from Dr Mcninja. It was like that. Metaphorically. I managed to resist shouting it out loud

Serious awesome.

Anyway, until next time, enjoy your drink.
Calgery Tower

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