Tag: porter

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All at sea again: Imperial Russian Stout is coming home.

I am SO going on this.

This is old news now, but I’ve been meaning to promote it for ages and, having just paid my deposit, now seems like the perfect time.

This June – almost four years since I recreated the journey of IPA from Burton-on-Trent to India – a group of brewers corralled by a man almost as mad as I am will be recreating the Baltic Run, from London to St Petersburg.

This is the journey that foreshadowed IPA, and its recreation is taking place on the kind of epic scale, and with the a level of authenticity, that I only wish I could have achieved with my adventure.  Tim O’ Rourke, a longstanding figure in the beer industry, had the idea a few years ago after a chat I had with him about my IPA voyage, and he’s worked tirelessly to make it a reality.

He’s hired Thermopylae – the yacht above – and convinced eleven brewers to create Imperial Russian Stouts that will be loaded on board after a special beer festival in London, running from 12th to 15th May.  The ship will then set sail across the North Sea, and will tour pubs and beer festivals around the Baltic, with the intention of arriving in St Petersburg on 15th June.  The journey will be in stages, and volunteer crew are still needed for various bits of it.  It’s a non-proft making venture and hiring a round-the-world clipper plus professional skipper and watch captains doesn’t come cheap, so it costs £700 per person per week.  But it’s worth it to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime – sod that, once-in-two-centuries -experience.

It’s a common misconception that stout was shipped to Russia by Burton brewers in the days of the Czars.  Well, while some stout may or may not have gone in later days, the beer that made Burton famous was strong, sweet, nut-brown ale.  Years later though, London’s porter brewers got in on the act and started exporting their beers to Imperial courts that fell in love with strong British beer styles.  British ships originally went to the Baltic to source wood for barrels, and figured they needed to take something on the outward journey to make it worthwhile.  So they took beer, and it really took off.  Maybe it was because of Staffordshire glass blowers working on the new palaces of St Petersburg.  Maybe it was inspired by attempts to keep up with Peter the Great, who served it at royal banquets, or Catherine the Great, who was ‘immoderately fond’ of British beer.  But the Baltic was Britain’s first great export market, until a combination of Bonaparte and prohibitive duty rates killed the trade off.  Back in Burton, it was the infrastructure and knowhow developed for the Baltic trade that allowed Burton brewers to crack the Indian market.

On the modern day version, the beers taking the trip come from:

1.     Harveys
2.     Coors Museum Brewery/William Worthington Brewery
3.     Wadworth
4.     Shepherd Neame
5.     St Austell
6.     Elgood’s
7.     Thrornbridge
8.     Meantime
9.     Bartram Brewery
10.  Black Sheep
11.  Fullers

I wish I could go along for the whole voyage, but I’ll be helping The Beer Widow organise Stokey Lit Fest again at the start of June.  Happily, we have just enough time to recover from the Litfest before getting a flight to Helsinki, where we’ll meet the ship and her cargo for the final leg to St Petersburg and what will hopefully be a triumphant arrival.

Middle of June, Baltic, a sun that never sets… I might even take the Beer Widow with me this time.  Go to www.thegreatbalticadventure.com if you’re interested in joining us.

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Happy St Paddy’s Day!

After having the naked audacity yesterday to suggest that a large regional brewer doing something that improves beer quality might actually be a Good Thing for beer drinkers, I’ve decided to completely blow any remaining credibility I might have with the miserable indie kid wing of the beer fraternity and write a post in praise of Guinness.

Beer Nut – I’m not necessarily calling you a miserable indie kid but I know how you feel on this particular issue. It might be best if you just look away now.
I like Guinness. Sorry, but I do. I like it as a brand – it’s stuck to its guns with mould-breaking, innovative creative advertising for eighty years now – and I occasionally like it as a beer. If there was a better porter or stout on the bar, of course I would choose to drink that instead. But the point is, in 99 out of 100 pubs, there isn’t a better porter or stout on the bar. There’s no porter or stout at all. Apart from Guinness. In fact when you think about it, the fact that Guinness – a dark, bitter stout – is as ubiquitous as it is in a world dominated by pale, tasteless imitation pilsners, it is a remarkable achievement. You might be about to comment that Guinness has been dumbed down and isn’t a patch on what it used to be. I’m not in a position to disagree with you. You might also be about to comment that Guinness isn’t a ‘real’ stout, that it’s way too bland or even that it actually tastes of nothing at all. There, I would have to disagree. Guinness is a big brand, one of the few beers that can truly claim to have a global presence. And the main reason it’s not even bigger? Survey after survey shows that the vast majority of beer drinkers find it too bitter, too challenging, too full-bodied. If Guinness were to reformulate to something as robust as the craft-brewed porters we all know and love, it would kill the brand stone dead. It might not be challenging to you, but it is to 99% of drinkers who ever come across it. And still it survives. The success of Guinness should actually give us hop that there are enough people who like challenging beer to make brewing something a bit more challenging worthwhile. If Guinness hadn’t kept the dark flame alive when porter and stout were otherwise extinct globally, would those styles have made the triumphant comeback that’s happened over the last ten years? And there’s one other thing. It’s St Patrick’s Day. If you really, truly believe that Guinness is shit, then go to a pub in Galway tonight and tell the people drinking there that they have crap taste in beer and don’t know anything about drinking. Good luck with that. I’ll be in the Auld Shillelagh in Stokie tonight, having a few pints, otherwise I’d come with you and help try to find your teeth on the floor of the pub. Guinness probably holds the world record (ironic that!) for number of books written about a single beer brand. Today there’s a new one out – Guinness ®: An Official Celebration of 250 Remarkable Year, from Octopus publishing. I don’t know if it’s any good or not, but it does have some recipes in it, and the publishers asked me if I’d put one up ande give the book a plug, so I am, because it’s Paddy’s day and I. Like. Guinness. So here’s one for Iced Chocolate, Guinness and orange cake. Slainte! This sumptuous cake is perfect for a special occasion. The recipe may seem a little involved, but it’s easy to accomplish if tackled stage by stage. Preparation time 45 minutes Cooking time 1 hourServes 8 2 large oranges250 g (8 oz) caster sugar175 g (6 oz) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing150 g (5 oz) self-raising flour25 g (1 oz) cocoa powder2 teaspoons baking powder3 free-range eggs, beaten25 g (1 oz) ground almonds5 tablespoons draught Guinness 150 ml (¼ pint) double cream Icing20 g (¾ oz) unsalted butter50 g (2 oz) caster sugar3 tablespoons draught Guinness 100 g (3½ oz) plain dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped step 1 Peel one orange. Finely grate the zest of the other orange and set aside. Using a sharp knife, pare away the pith from both oranges. Cut the oranges into 5 mm (¼ inch) slices. Put them in a small saucepan and just cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 50 g (2 oz) of the sugar and continue to simmer until all the liquid has boiled away, watching carefully to ensure that the oranges don’t burn. Leave to cool.step 2 Beat together the butter and the remaining sugar for the cake in a large bowl until very pale and fluffy. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder, then beat into the butter mixture alternately with the eggs. Add the ground almonds, reserved grated orange zest and Guinness and beat for 3–4 minutes until you have a soft dropping consistency.step 3 Grease and line the base and sides of 2 x 20 cm (8 inch) round cake tins, then divide the cake mixture equally between the tins, smoothing the surface. Bake the cakes in a preheated oven, 190°C (375°F), Gas Mark 5, for 25 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before carefully turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.step 4 Whip the cream in a bowl until soft peaks form, then spread over one of the cakes. Arrange the cooled orange pieces over the cream and carefully place the other cake on top.step 5 To make the icing, put the butter, sugar and Guinness in a small saucepan. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Leave to soften, then beat gently with a wooden spoon. Leave to cool and thicken. While still warm but not too runny, pour the icing over the cake and use the back of a spoon or a palette knife to spread it evenly.