Monthly Archives: December 2014

Some beers from the Metropolitan Brewing Company

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Some beers from the Metropolitan Brewing Company.  These are some new ‘craft beers’ from Greene King. They’re exclusive to Tesco. They’re packaged nicely, but they’re not very interesting, alas.

‘M’ Undercurrent Pale Ale
5% alcohol
Hopped with Tasmania Galaxy. Gold/bronze colour. Sweet toffee and malt nose with a hint of ripe peach. Sweetly fruited, accessible palate with lots of malt influence. Simple easy drinking. 6.5/10 (£1.79 Tesco)

‘M’ Optical Infusion Golden Ale
5.5% alcohol
Golden ale with some oak matured Scotch whisky added. Yellow/gold in colour. Sweet, herby, slightly malty nose. Very herbal with a toffee character. Fresh, lemony, malty palate with a sweet edge, but a hollow mid palate. Tastes a bit like alcohol-free beer. 5/10 (£1.79 Tesco)

‘M’ Big Bad Wolf IPA
6% alcohol
Centennial, Amarillo, Cascade and Styrian Goldings hops. Herby, malty and slightly bitter nose. Savoury, spicy, herby palate with a hole in the middle. Citrus peel and spice notes add interest but there’s a fundamental disconnect to all the components. 5.5/10 (£1.79 Tesco)

Brew Britannia: the strange rebirth of British beer, by Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey

brewbritannia

Brew Britannia: the strange rebirth of British beer
by Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey
Aurum Press, 2014
I’m a bit of a history geek. History brings us perspective, and this book is a much welcomed perspective for those of us who love British beer, but weren’t around to see the birth of the modern British beer scene, in all its wonderful diversity.

Back in the mid-1960s, things were quite different. Small breweries were dying out and the big brewers were flexing their muscles. Interesting beers were disappearing and consumers were left with little choice from the tied brewery pubs. Real cask-matured ales were being squeezed out by boring keg bitters. Things got worse through the 1970s, to the point that by 1976 there were 147 brewers across the UK, owned by 82 companies. Beer was officially rubbish and in danger of dying out.

That sounds quite a lot: I can’t name you 147 brewers now. (Not anywhere close.) But it isn’t, not compared with today. In 2012, for the first time since before the first world war, the number of breweries exceeded 1000. We now have much more choice in beer styles. We are truly living in a new golden age of beer.

This book, by bloggers Boak and Bailey, is a detailed history of how this transformation took place. It’s quite scholarly, even, with lots of sources quoted in detail. It may lack a strong narrative theme, but there’s perhaps a raw honesty that comes with this lack of polish. Here are lots of facts, and you can take them away and make of it what you will. It deals at length with the role of CAMRA in being a vocal activist speaking out for interesting beer, but doesn’t shy away from the political issues that have arisen now that the battle has been won, the door has been opened, and CAMRA seemingly can’t get its head that interesting beer should be judged on its merits, and not on the method of its production.

One question I have: how much of this shift in beer is attributable to CAMRA, and how much to general societal changes that have taken place since the mid-1970s? Food has got more interesting, in the absence of a campaign for real food. Was CAMRA a manifestation of changing times that quite naturally appeared as people were looking for more interesting food and drink, or was it causal in any way?

I enjoyed reading this book, and if you have a strong interest in the modern British beer scene, you should probably buy a copy (and read it with sitting in an armchair with your sandals and cardigan on – only joking!).

This book on Amazon.co.uk: Brew Britannia: The Strange Rebirth of British Beer

Vedett IPA

vedett ipa

So, Vedett. What do you reckon? Brand owned by Duvel. Big marketing spend, including hiring very smart brand consultants. Look at the website. Once you get past the age gauge, and select your country, you can even personalize your case. This is quite cool. But normally big brand means dull beer. This is where I am pleased to report that with their Extra Ordinary IPA (website here), they have pretty much got it right. They haven’t gone for the big hoppy American style, but neither have they skimped on expensive hops and produced a faux IPA. This is a super beer. It’s not a lame attempt to jump the craft beer bandwagon. It’s delicious.

Vedett Extra Ordinary IPA
5.5% alcohol
Yellow/orange in colour. Lovely fresh, tangy, herby lemony flavours with lovely hoppy bitterness. It’s quite a fresh style with lovely grapefruit, a little passion fruit richness and a tangy bitter finish. 8/10