Tag: White Horse

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Odessa in London

Almost a year ago now I went down to Otley Brewing in South Wales and did a brew with them.  Unlike many collaborative brews, they made me come up with the recipe, select the hops and everything.  When I co-created Brew Dog’s Avery Brown Dredge with Zak and Mark, they did most of the work and I just said things like, “Yes. very good.” This time I was on my own.  Nowhere to hide.  (There’s a nice video of the brew day of you follow the link above).

Inspired by Martin Dickie’s ginger nuts (we were very hungover) I decided I wanted to brew an imperial stout with ginger.  And chocolate.  And then mature it in whisky casks for a year.You may say that’s showing off.  I say it was cruising for a fall.  As I kept chucking handfuls of crystallised ginger and Belgian chocolate drops into the copper when Nick Otley wasn’t looking (unaware that Nick was doing the same when I wasn’t looking) I was genuinely worried it wouldn’t work.

For ten months, some of this beer sat in bourbon barrels and some in mead barrels.  Nick finally tasted it last weekend and after he stopped saying ‘wow!’ (which took a while) he said it was pitch black, and very warming.

Tomorrow you get a chance to see if we pulled it off or whether I should stick to writing rather than brewing.  Odessa Imperial Stout is launching in four London pubs, and Nick and I are touring them to give it a try in each one.  Each pub gets either the whisky or the mead finish, randomly chosen.  So if you can, it’s worth trying at least three pubs.  The beer will of course be on sale all day until it runs out.  But if you want to see me or Nick (save the difficult questions for him) our rough timetable is as follows:

1.       The White Horse, Parsons Green, between 1pm & 2pm
2.       The Rake, Borough, between 3pm & 4pm
3.       The Jolly Butchers, Stoke Newington, between 5pm & 6pm
4.       The Southampton Arms, Kentish Town, between 7pm & 8pm

I’ll be tweeting events for as long as I can focus.  Though after the first couple of pints of this stuff, I may well ask someone to take my phone off me.

See you there!

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Over-hopped and over here?

There’s never been a better time to drink American craft beer in the UK than next week.  The Beer San Frontieres bar at the Great British Beer Festival, form Tuesday to Saturday, is bigger than it’s ever been and received some good coverage in the Independent recently.

And this Friday, 6th August, The White Horse at Parsons Green is hosting the American craft brewers for an evening with an amazing range of beers.  The list is below.  Break out the milk thistle.

·      Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale – 5.5%ABV
·      Ballast Point Big Eye IPA – 7% ABV
·      Butternuts Beer & Ale Porkslap 4.3% ABV
·      Butternuts Beer & Ale Moo Thunder – 4.9% ABV
·      Dogfish Head Midas Touch – 9%ABV
·      Great Divide 16th Anniversary IPA – 10% ABV
·      Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout – 9.5% ABV
·      Great Divide Hoss Rye Lager – 6.2% ABV
·      Green Flash Double Stout – 8.8% ABV
·      Left Hand Milk Stout – 6% ABV
·      Left Hand Imperial Stout – 10.2% ABV
·      Odell IPA – 7% ABV
·      Odell 90 Shilling Ale – 5.3% ABV
·      Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale – 6.5% ABV
·      Oskar Blue Ten Fidy – 10.5% ABV
·      Smutty Nose Baltic Porter – 8.7% ABV
·      Southern Tier 2XIPA – 6.5% ABV
·      Southern Tier Mokah – 11% ABV
·      Stone IPA – 6.9% ABV
·      Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine 11.26% ABV
·      Tommyknocker Black Rye IPA – 7% ABV
·      Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale – 4.5% ABV
·      Uncommon Brewers Siamese Twin Ale- 8.5% ABV
·      Uncommon Brewers Bacon Brown Ale – 6.8% ABV
·      Victory Hop Devil – 6.7% ABV
·      Victory Golden Monkey -9.5% ABV

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Mr Oliver comes to London

This week I’ve been lucky enough to spend two evenings with Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery and arguably the world’s most compelling voice about beer, especially when he’s talking about beer and food matching.
The first night was – to put it mildly – unexpected.  Last Saturday we had a barbecue at our house for my birthday.  I turned my friends on to my newly discovered masterpiece of beer-brined chicken in fennel rub – a recipe from one of those kitsch, 1950s-style novelty cookbooks that turns out to be the best thing I’ve ever cooked.  Sublime with a Sierra Nevada-style pale ale, perfect with Norrebro’s Bombay India Pale Ale.
The following day we were nursing hangovers, prodding at the tidying up and enjoying the sunshine when Garrett dropped me a line to say he was in London, had no plans and did I fancy a pint?  I explained that I was incapable of leaving the house but that he was welcome to join us for the last of the beer-brined chicken and the World Cup FinalTM if he wanted, and to my surprise and delight he said yes.  After the poor sod roamed Finsbury Park for an hour in search of a cab – bloody football – he finally made it to Stoke Newington.  I managed to find three beers in the cellar he’d not had before, and I think he liked two of them.  After watching the Dutch lose to Spain in the Ultimate Fighting Challenge, we stayed up talking till long after bedtime, drinking Ola Dubh 40.  A memorable and wonderful evening, entirely worth writing off the whole of Monday for.
Two nights later Garrett was at the White Horse giving a beer and cheese pairing.  I do this kind of thing quite a bit myself, but I don’t think I’ve ever uttered one word about how well cheese and beer go together that Garrett hadn’t said to me first.
If you haven’t seen Garrett do his thing before, here’s a brief summary of his spiel, after which I’ll say a note on the beers and the cheeses, and how well they went together.
The first thing he’s at pains to point out is that he loves wine as well as beer.  “Some of my best friends are sommeliers,” he didn’t quite say.  Seriously, he argued that people who are passionate about evangelizing any kind of food or drink are all “flavour people.  It’s natural that it’s intertwined.”
Having established this, he then talks about how beer is a better match with cheese than wine is.  He often participates in tasting duels versus sommeliers. A cheese expert chooses six cheeses, Garrett and the wine guy choose drinks to match with them, and in front of a voting audience Garrett usually wins. 
There’s a technical part to why and, in Garrett’s mind, a more romantic, esoteric explanation which is just as real.  The technical bit is that cheese is mainly fat and salt, which coat the tongue.  Wine simply bounces off this coating, can’t break it down, and therefore you don’t really taste much of what remain two very separate elements in the mouth.  But beer, with its carbonation, breaks through, scraping the fat off your tongue, revitalizing the flavours.  Sometimes beer enhances cheese, sometimes vice versa, and sometimes they combine to create a 3D flavour sensation that’s much bigger than either beer or cheese can achieve separately.
The more romantic part – which is not to say it doesn’t make perfect sense – is that beer and cheese are obvious natural pairings.  They both come from a farm, and historically they were both made by the same person.  “Both are essentially made from grass,” argues Garrett.  “Barley is a type of grass.  Cheese has a cow or a sheep in the middle, but it starts as grass.”
And so on to the tasting.  All the beers were Garrett’s own, some of them rarely if ever seen this side of the pond. 


Sorachi ace is a rare, new hop with a powerful, unique aroma of lemon rind and lemongrass.  The beer of the same name is a Belgian Saison style ale that tastes like a warm summer evening. 
Goat’s cheese seemed like an obvious match, and this particular one was one of the best I’ve ever tasted – a bold initial tartness that melts into a lake of milkiness. 
Together, the lemon character of the beer and the strong citric hit of the cheese somehow cancel each other out and fade away to leave a new flavour, rounder and mellower with no sharp edges, sweet with the tiniest hint of malt.  Wonderful.


Brillat Savarin is to my mind the best ever writer on food, famous for his aphorisms, my favourite of which is “A meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.”  I don’t much care for the cheese that was named after him though.  It’s like eating solidified cream.  I hate cream.  It’s too cloying and sickly and I don’t understand why everyone thinks it’s a treat. 
The beer though is something I’d be perfectly happy to receive as a birthday present.  And I mean a ‘proper’ present.  It’s recognizable as a Belgian Saison in style but it’s smoother, more elegant.  You want to say ‘dumbed down’ but that would be completely inaccurate.  Yes, it’s more accessible than some of the funkier farmyard Saisons, but the cheesy, musty, sweet and sour, spicy flavour journey of a Saison is all present and correct. 
This is a match where the beer comes out best.  The cheese helps push its tartness to the fore, a brief spike of flavour emerging slowly and elegantly, like the spine of a humpback whale cresting the ocean surface before, submerging again.  
On the other hand,  the cheese just tastes even creamier, which I could really do without. 


The Brooklyn beer you can get fairly easily in the UK was the first they brewed, and is a faithful recreation of what beer used to be like in New York a hundred years ago, prompting Garrett to exclaim that the current craft beer boom is not a fad or a trend, but a return to normality after a the late twentieth century’s obsession with plastic and standardization. 
I realize that we spend too much time thinking about beer in terms of ‘hoppy’ or ‘malty’.  Brooklyn lager is neither, or rather, both.  It’s toffee in a very expensive designer label suit that makes it shine and sparkle.
The cheese is sticky and cloying and glutinous in a good way, sweet and salty and slightly acidic.  Together I don’t find much alchemy – both are nice separately and nice together, but with nothing much added.


This is an interesting one.  Ossau Iraty is made from sheep’s milk and has an aroma of lanolin or ‘wool fat’, the smell you get off a wet woollen jumper and, once it’s been pointed out, the sweet smell you get from roast lamb.
The beer is all about chocolate and caramel, with a slight grassiness towards the end.
Together, they are in total harmony – beer and cheese blend into each other around an axis of sweet caramel.  Just lovely.


This one wasn’t on the menu and I’m starting to lose track.  Dark Matter is an 8% version of the brown ale that’s been aged for four months in bourbon and wine barrels to give it a strong American oak character.  To me it smells initially of nail varnish, but that’s a smell I’ve always liked.  On the second whiff I can isolate the coconut that Garrett’s talking about, and then you can get the strong vanilla essence behind it, a hint of sherry, and then a faint molasses character on the tongue.
I hardly notice the cheese.  I’m all wrapped up in the beer, and the match doesn’t change much about it.


IPA with strong mature cheddar has always been my favourite match of any beer with any food, and this one doesn’t disappoint. The dry saltiness of the cheese ands the fruitiness of the beer just body barge each other, exploding in a carnival of colour and partying on your tongue.  Weirdly, Garrett compares it to a forceful physical dance, like a tango, just after I’ve written in my notebook that they’re slam-dancing.  I  might be on the same wavelength as him, but I just don’t have his class.


This pairing was born by accident.  Garrett was at an event where he’d asked for either a barley wine to match with Stilton (which is another awesome match) or chocolate stout with truffles.  He turned up to find chocolate stout and Stilton, panicked, tried it, and found it worked wonderfully.
The dark chocolate character in the stout comes from chocolate malt only – no actual chocolate – and develops with a hint of sherry, followed by an inky Shiraz character on the palate with some bitter coffee grounds mixed in.
The Stilton is lovely.  “People who don’t like Stilton… well… they’re just bad people,” says Garrett.  “I’m serious.  If you don’t like Stilton you can’t come to my house.  You can’t pet my dog.”
The match is an elegant marriage which makes me think of high tea with a maiden aunt in a stately home.  Don’t ask me why.
So what did I learn?  The main thing is that in craft brewing there are craftsmen, artisans, entrepreneurs, chefs, mavericks, scientists, technicians, innovators and mad professors.  But Garrett is one of the few true artists.  The beers reflect the man: daring, elegant, refined, cultured, Europhile, principled and courteous. At my house on Sunday he was telling us about a beer he’s designed in honour of a legendary Italian filmmaker, and to hear him talk through his thinking, the influences he wanted to incorporate, and how he chose to weave them together, was enchanting.  All my guests – including the ones who never drink beer – were absolutely rapt.  And the brews we had on Tuesday demonstrated that he can deliver in the glass what he weaves in words.
I also learned that the best way to talk about beer versus wine is not to dismiss wine, or fight against it, but to complement it.  This is too long a post, so I’m just going to finish by quoting Garrett in summary:
“The frustration in the States, and now here, is people trying to force wine into places where it doesn’t want to go.  What we eat now, with Japanese and Indian and Thai food, is not what we were eating twenty years ago.  Let wine go where it wants, or it’s a recipe for misery. 
“Beer has a wider range of flavours than wine.  That’s not opinion, that is incontrovertible, verified fact.  When chefs and restaurants complement a great menu with a great wine list and just two or three industrial beers, it’s like an artist saying ‘I’m only going to use half the colours’, or a composer saying ‘I’m only going to use half the notes.’  It just doesn’t make sense.”
I’ll be in my salon if you need me.

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Hair of the Dog

Good afternoon, and we’re blogging LIVE from the White Horse in Parson’s Green, where a momentous event is taking place.
Last month, I helped brew a beer up at Kelham Island in Sheffield. It’s a 6% IPA that had a final sparge of hops at the end of the brew. As is always the case, there was the difficult question of what to name the beer. This was resolved when Crown Brewer Stu’s wife, Cat – who works at Kelham Island – contacted the beer widow and suggested the beer be named after out dog, Captain.
And so, a beer was born:
In the photo on the pump clip, the little fella is lying on our rug chewing away at a dried bull’s penis. he loves a bit of dried bull’s penis, does Captain. But he does look like he’s smoking a cigar – entirely befitting of the successful dog about town with a beer named after him.
So, today Captain IPA went on the bar at the White Horse, and Captain wanted to come down and check it out. Here is is on the bar, next to his beer:
He’s not that interested in trying the beer, which is a shame – that hop sparge hasn’t necessarily given it a stronger hop flavour, but it’s given it a much more rounded hop flavour – the usual citrus and resin is fleshed out with a much sweeter, fuller hop character that blends perfectly into the malt. It’s a winner!
Captain has also been sighted at this weekend’s Kelham Island Beer Festival and at various pubs around the country, including some Wetherspoons. There are two nines of it down here at the White Horse – not sure how much of it we’ll get through this afternoon but please do try and check it out! It’ll make Captain’s afternoon.

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H&G Update

The initial launch may have settled down but I’m continuing to flog my new book up and down the country.

If you’re going to the White Horse American Beer Festival, I’m there tomorrow all afternoon, signing books and chatting from around 5pm.
The following day I’m back in Burton-on-Trent, signing in Waterstone’s in town from noon for about two hours.
Then, next week I’m at the Derby Beer Festival opening reception on Wednesday 8th, and am giving a reading the following day at Sheffield’s fantastic Devonshire Cat pub.
reviews are now also starting to trickle in slowly, and people seem to like it!  The Times calls it “big beery fun”, and the London Review of Books claims it’s “as enlightening as it is entertaining.”  Both reviews are short and sweet – for a bit more depth, check out ATJ, Semi-Dweller, and an epic four-parter from Alan McCleod!

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Lovely Pub Hosts Festival of Lovely Beer This Weekend

The White Horse in Parson’s Green has long been famous as THE Mecca for the luvvies of the beer world, if that’s not too bizarre a concept (the idea of there being luvvies of the beer world, rather than them having a Mecca).  

There was a general feeling when landlord Mark Dorber left after 25 years that it wasn’t going to be as good as it used to be.  And while Mark is an irreplaceable character (currently to be found being highly and very entertainingly opinionated at his new gaff in Walberswick), current manager Dan Fox, ably assisted by Ben Lockwood (a man whose unimpeachable and unquestionable passion for Barnsley FC mirrors my own) have ensured a seamless continuation of high standards for which they deserve recognition and acclaim.
A perfect example of this is this weekend, the White Horse’s 26th Old Ales Festival.  From beer o’clock on Friday 28th November to I-should-remember-I-need-to-be-at-work-tomorrow on Sunday 30th, the pub will be showcasing at least fifty examples of historic styles like barley wine, old ale, mild, porter, stout and strong ale.  It’s cold.  It’s raining.  It’s the credit crunch.  You don’t need any more reasons than that.  But there are many more – including exclusive CASK beers from Meantime, and rare beers from North America.
See you there.

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American Beers at the White Horse

Looks like I picked the wrong weekend to visit my folks back in Yorkshire…

From Friday 4th (US Independence Day) to Sunday 6th, the celebrated White Horse in Parson’s Green is hosting its first American Beer Festival. We don’t get enough American micros in the UK and this is a great opportunity to try old favourites, some of the growing number of British beers inspired by the American way with the hop, and a few beers that haven’t left the US before now, including a few in cask.

I’m celebrating my 40th birthday there the following Saturday, so if there are any REALLY nice beers, if you could only have one of them and not tell anyone else about them, so there’s plenty left, it would be really appreciated.

They’ve got American bands on and even line dancig at some point, but don;t let that put you off. The full range of beers is as follows:

*Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA (in cask and keg)
*Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale (in cask)
Sierra Nevada Porter (in cask)
Sierra Nevada IPA (in cask)
*Sierra Nevada ESP (in cask)
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Sierra Nevada Brown Ale
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot
Sierra Nevada Blonde
Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager
Flying Dog Gonzo
Flying Dog Doggie Pale Ale
Flying Dog Old Scratch
Anchor Liberty
Anchor Steam

Crouch Vale Amarillo
Durham White Amarillo
Saltaire Cascade Pale Ale
Roosters Yankee
Roosters Outlaw Amarillo
Roosters Cream
Roosters Special
Acorn Sunstorm
Acorn Cascade IPA
Oakleaf Whole Hearted
Archers IPA
Bowman Quiver
Dark Star American Pale Ale
Ascot Posh Pooch
Ascot Alligator Ale
Ascot Wheatsheaf
Thornbridge Jaywick
Thornbridge Jaipur
Thornbridge Ashford
Abbeydale Brimstone
Kelham island Pale Rider
Goose Eye Chinook
Oakham JHB

* Denotes beers that are leaving the US for the first time