Beer Podcasts I’m Listening To

While we’re all in the grips of coronavirus/COVID – hopefully you are all safe and well – for the most part I imagine there’s a bit more spare time going around. If not (and even if so) listening to a great podcast is a great way to spend time, relaxing and interesting at the same time.

Whether you’re catching up with recent beer and brewery news, looking to learn more about homebrewing, or looking to go off on a beer-related adventure, there’s plenty of options out there. I’ve picked out a selection here, but if there are any others you would recommend please comment below!

While you’re at it, why not try setting up your own podcast?

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine

A weekly podcast that stands at 131 episodes at time of writing, so plenty to catch up on. Expect interviews with brewers and experts.

Brewers Journal

Right from the start this podcast covers the brewing world slightly more from the business angle – branding, marketing and the like. A great show to go beyond the beer itself.

Four Brewers

Trying beers and giving homebrewing tips – this podcast does it both. I’ve personally taken a lot of great advice from this one and would recommend it to anyone taking up this great hobby way of life.

Good Beer Hunting

Intriguing interviews with brewers across the industry with some amazing spin-off series too, from the history of brewing to how brewers are reacting to COVID-19. Well worth a listen.

Pubtrotters

Ah, the pub. I miss it so much, don’t you? So although this podcast inevitably won’t be updated any time soon, cast your mind back to a better time and think about the pub.

The Beerists

For a bit of fun and banter over some beer tasting, look no further. Sometimes it’s nice to not have to be serious!

Pellicle

If you’re not familiar with Pellicle it’s a beautiful website which doesn’t just cover beer (wine, cider and food too) and their podcast is a marvellous listen for anyone with an hour to spare.

Triple Hopped

Tasting and talking beers with some colourful and bold artwork – say no more.

What are you listening to? I’m always keen to hear recommendations about other podcasts to get involved with. Comment below or get in touch on Twitter, @craftynumber.

Prefer a read? How about trying some of these.

7 Books About Beer to Read Now

While most people have a bit more time on their hands, what better time to get stuck into a new book, and what better subject than beer? If you, like me, are looking for some learning, some tasting and some information then how about some of the list below:

1 – Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink by Randy Mosher

This is the perfect guide for anyone who’s interested in beer and wants to get to know more. “Everyone knows how to drink beer, but few know how to really taste it” – the blurb really sums it up and this book makes it clear, easily understandable and something you’ll come back to again and again.

2 – Craft Brew: 50 Homebrew Recipes from the World’s Best Craft Breweries by Euan Ferguson

A great collection for the homebrewer – if you’re not yet at the point (like me) where you can make up your own recipes, this book gives you everything you need to replicate some of your favourite beers at home. It should take you some times getting through all these, and hopefully you’ll have some serious fun doing so!

3 – Beer School: A Crash Course in Craft Beer by Johnny Garrett

This book is great for a beginner, something easily readable with great illustrations to keep you interested and entertained. It covers everything you need to know, and will give you a broad range of knowledge to get you started on your beer journey.

4 –The Little Book of Craft Beer: A Guide to Over 100 of the World’s Finest Brews by Melissa Cole

A great little guide to some of the headline beers to try in different styles – it might not be revolutionary to someone who knows a lot about beer already, but it’s a perfect companion to have to hand, both in its size and it’s very clear and well-illustrated layout.

5- The Brewer’s Tale: A History of the World According to Beer by William Bostwick

A fantastic read, one which gets you right to the heart of the author’s love for beer. This comes through clearly in the descriptions of his efforts to make beers through each chapter and for me was a really important book in the development of my interest in beers. I probably learned more from this book than any other, so would highly recommend.

6 – The Beer Bible by Jeff Alworth

Another guide to the world of beer for the enthusiast – a bit more detailed than others above, so I would say something for those who have more of a familiarity but are looking to expand their knowledge. For me, this definitely helped to expand my knowledge of types of beer, brewing and tasting.

7 – Comic Book Story of Beer: A Chronicle of the World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 Bc to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution by Jonathan Hennessey

Finally, a book that breaks everything down visually – this book tells the story of beer from it’s very beginnings to the present day. Comics are always going to be easier to understand than the long written theory, but this is something accessible enough for newer beer fans and more experienced drinkers alike.

I would love to hear from you if you’ve read any of these books, or if you’re planning to look them up now! Are there any other books you’d recommend? Leave them in the comments below, or get in touch on Twitter, @craftynumber.

I drank a six pack of pale ales

As you might have seen me write before, I’ve set out on an adventure of the best kind (and one I can do indoors) – a beer odyssey. I’ve got six different pale ales together, and I’m trying them all in a row to try to understand how and why they’re different: in looks, smell, and taste.

For a while now, about two years which have gone very quickly, I’ve been making an effort to taste as many different beers as possible. Whenever I see something I haven’t tried in a pub, I get a pint. This has included rerouting trips around Ireland and New Zealand, the planning of trips to Belgium and Germany (now on COVID-hold) and, on a more local scale, walking across my home city of London to get to specific pubs. All topics for another day.

First, my pale ales. I’m trying to do a bit of reading around these beer styles and I have enjoyed it – it all feels very much like beer is significantly more important to society than I thought, and it’s a nice idea that something as simple as having a beer of an evening connects you to your ancestors from hundreds of years ago. But enough of my poetic licence.

The history bit

Back in 18th century England most beers were dark, but as malting methods improved those in charge of the process (maltsters) were more able to control the malt’s colour. As a result, brewers were able to brew lighter beers which also then had some different, less roasty, flavours. Generally, pale ales are on the mid- to darker end of what we might imagine a light beer to look like: think straw to copper, rather than an almost colourless lager. ‘Pale ale’ is also a catch-all term for a variety of beers, from IPAs on the stronger end to bitter on the weaker. In the craft beer boom in the US through the 1980s, pale ales had new life given to them – they were easier to make than lagers, and brewers were able to use the wide range of American hops to play with different flavours. Fast forward to the present day, and there’s more varieties of pale ales than I could hope to list here.

Onto the beers

I ordered six pale ales from Honest Brew, to be honest completely at random. Again, I was trying to get ones that I knew I hadn’t had before so that was a factor but otherwise I was choosing six that were available. From my experience, the selection on their website is always changing (a good thing) so if you were to go there now you may not find the ones I had. I would encourage you to pick a different six and do what I did!

First up, Nor’Hop by Moor (4.1% ABV). Pouring it out there wasn’t much of a head, but I wouldn’t let that put me off. Very slightly hazy, and the smell of it was a little bit of citrus fruit but nothing too strong. The taste was really a balance between some malt and light fruitiness, but for me there was still nothing particularly strong coming out. That said, this was generally a very pleasant beer, definitely a session beer and a nice one to start on.

Next was Inhaler by Magic Rock (4.5% ABV). A darker colour and much cloudier than the Nor’Hop, with a pure white head. There was a really strong hoppy smell coming off of this – fruity yes, but for me there was a lot of earthiness. Maybe something wrong with my nose according to the description Magic Rock give it (“super fruity, super ripe, super juicy”). Tasted exactly like it smelt and was nice overall, but not necessarily a standout for me. Either way it was really interesting how different this was from the first beer, all down to the hops giving their distinctive flavours.

Third in my list was Undercurrent from Siren (4.5% ABV). A similar colour to the Inhaler, maybe slightly less cloudy but not by much. I felt the smell was quite earthy but there was something there I couldn’t quite identify – it was annoying me. Reading spicy and floral on the bottle, perhaps it was a peppery smell I was getting? I felt the taste was sweeter than the Inhaler, with some similar flavours. The more I thought about it and the more I drank, the more I got that peppery flavour coming through. I can kind of understand the floral description of the hops, but it was definitely not a light flowery taste (if that makes sense) – more on the side of the earthiness, possibly because of the spice. This one also has oats in it and although the smoothness they bring wasn’t immediately obvious to me it was definitely there. All round a nice beer to drink and one that grew on me. Siren have been one of my favourite breweries and I’ve tried quite a few of their beers over time, so love to keep getting my hands on everything they come out with.

Fourth – Hickey the Rake by Wylam (4.2%). Back to a pale, straw coloured beer. Straight away there was a burst of fruity smell, with a little hint of sourness; being a ‘limonata pale’ I’m assuming that comes with the lemony side of this beer. It kind of smelt like a sour sweet, if you could possibly describe sourness as a smell. Tasting it, immediately the bitterness hit but quickly turned into a slightly sweet lemony smoothness. It’s great to have a beer made with two completely different hops to the previous one; this uses Chinook and Mosaic while the Siren beer had Cascade and Simcoe in there. The two beers are very different, I know some of that comes from the malts but I’ve loved trying the two alongside each other and really seeing the difference that the hops make. That’s why I wanted to do this, and it’s what I’ve got.

Next up was Cloudwater’s West Coast Pale (4.0% ABV). A light amber colour with a slight haziness when it was poured out. This one seemed to have a fresh, grassy hop smell that felt a bit like walking through a forest. The strong hop taste rolls into bitterness and it really lasted, like a fruit pith taste. That was probably the biggest difference between this and the other pales I’d had, which didn’t have such a lasting bitterness.

Last but not least, Headband by Verdant (5.5% ABV). Immediately an explosion of fruity smells pouring out of the can, a mixture of mango and pineapples straight to the face. An interesting one to taste: you get the fruitiness straight away, then it turns into something weirdly smooth and much less sweet. I’m seeing stinky cheese written on the can, I think that must be what they’re referring to. Not sure how pleasant that is really. I guess you get more used to it as you have more, but once I had that idea in my head I just couldn’t get past it. Probably not one for me, but it’s amazing to see just how different this was to the first few pale ales I had. Just goes to show how much of a difference there can be between beers of the same style.

All in all, I was very pleased that I did this. Not only was it the perfect way to spend an afternoon, it also opened my eyes to some of the amazing differences you can get between beers when just a few things are changed – whether that’s adding a small amount of oatmeal to the mash, or throwing in a ton of hops to bring down a fruity rain. I would wholeheartedly encourage this experience to any of you interested in beers, especially if it’s a relatively new thing for you. All you need is a glass (if you’re as civilised as I clearly am) and a thirst.

One small step for beer, a massive leap for my beer knowledge. The first of many of these trial sessions, which I will write down my thoughts on.

Right, what’s in the fridge…

Coronavirus, Staying Indoors and Six Packs

I haven’t posted here for a while. It’s been a busy few months, but now being stuck inside because of coronavirus (like most of the world) I’ve had a bit more time to settle in, drink some beers and try to distract myself from everything going on out there.

Something I’ve wanted to do for a long while is to consciously learn more about the different styles of beer – what are they are, how they’re made and why they’re different from each other. Doing a little bit of brewing myself has helped but let’s face it, tasting is much more fun.

So recently I decided to try putting together six beers of the same type to taste alongside each other and get to grips with their flavours and profiles. I’ve already started doing this with some pale ales, IPAs and lagers which I’ll be covering over the next few days, and I’ve got some porters & stouts, session IPAs and no/low alcohol beers on their way to me right now to repeat the process.

For each I’m going to do a little bit of reading up on the background of the style because hopefully that will help me understand it a bit more, and honestly because I love a bit of history. So stay tuned, stay indoors and wash your hands!

Beer gifts for Christmas

Unless you are more organised than I certainly am, then you’re still looking for Christmas gifts for that special person (or people). But what to get for the beer lover in your life? Or someone who has started to take an interest that you want to encourage? Well, I’ve found a few suggestions…

1 – Beer52 subscription

A Beer52 subscription is the perfect gift for a friend or loved one, keeping their fridge stocked through the year! Or if you don’t want to commit to the subscription, try a mixed case to get some beer juices flowing and make sure there’s something on the table next to the turkey.

Get your first case free here

Get £5 off all bottle shop orders over £25 with code: BEER52AFFIVE

Get £10 off all bottle shop orders over £35 with code: BEER52AFTEN

Beer52 craft beer gift subscription homepage

2 – The Good Beer Guide

CAMRA Good Beer Guide 2020

The classic handbook to get exploring the finest pubs that Britain has to offer. This book will get your loved one inspired to try new beers and bars to drink them in.

3 – The Little Book of Craft Beer

Little Book of Craft Beer Melissa Cole

A great little guide to some of the headline beers to try in different styles – it might not be revolutionary to someone who knows a lot about beer already, but it’s a perfect companion to have to hand, both in its size and it’s very clear and well-illustrated layout.

4 – A comedy tea towel

Beer tea towel

A comedy tea towel, obviously.

5 – The Atlas of Beer

Atlas of Beer book

The Atlas of Beer – the coffee table book that anyone who likes beer will want. Full of photos to impress and intrigue.

6 – Shower beer can holder

Shower beer can holder
Disclaimer: drink a better beer than this

Another jokey one, but with serious implications – why wouldn’t you have a beer in the shower, right? This one is portable, so you can take it with you wherever you go: on holiday, the gym…

7 – Beer gift hamper

Beer Hawk gift hamper

A nice, balanced mixture of beers suitable for a beer lover or someone beginning to dip their toe in the water. Comes with a glass and some snacks to set your Christmas morning off in the right way.

8 – Beer koozies

Beer koozies

I learnt about koozies on a trip to the US about a year ago, and I’ve never looked back. These things keep your beer cold, and are an amazing conversation starter at any BBQ – perfect for someone who wants to tell everyone about the IPA they’ve brought.

9 – Bermondsey microbrewery tour

A full microbrewery experience in an area thick with microbreweries. One for me to write about another day, but the Brixton Beer Mile includes some excellent breweries all within a short walk of one another – as I wrote about here, an experience in a microbrewery can be a very rewarding experience, getting you up close with beers and their makers. Plus this one’s for two so you can hope to get an invite!

Brewing in Brixton

Going into the seemingly tiny railway arch in Brixton which houses the London Beer Lab, my excitement was growing – I was there for a brewing session, not something I had done before, and I was going on my own. I was hoping the tasting aspect of the session would help with that part.

There were 16 of us there, broken down into groups and each given a recipe designed by the head brewer. I was part of a dream team making a single hop Citra, with cold brew coffee – an interesting concept. We were using a brew in the bag system – essentially a huge tea bag which you fill with your malt and soak, saving the effort of sieving out the grain after – so weighed out our ingredients and threw them in to mash for an hour.

Brewing at London Beer Lab
Brew baby brew

While that was going, we were given a really interesting and thorough talk by our guide, who talked through different types of grains used in brewing, and passed around samples of each for us to see, smell and taste. I’ve tried malted barley once before during a brewery tour, but it was amazing to see and try all these different types alongside each other – I really started to get a sense for how they can affect the end result of a beer, and where some of the flavours you drink come from. Next up were different types of hops, some British, some European and some American, which had the same effect on me. I’ve smelt hops before, but to get them in direct comparison was a new experience.

I should say at this point that this was also a beer tasting session – something to grease the wheels of spending 4 or 5 hours with complete strangers. We’d tried the London Beer Lab Table beer by this point already, and were now onto their Tip Top Citra APA, both of which were lovely to drink, as was the pint of the Session IPA I had downstairs at the bar a little bit later (and it was rather nice to share a pint with some new people – we’d all bonded a bit by that point). Being able to hold and smell Citra hops in one hand, whilst holding a beer made from them in the other was yet another great experience, and something which really helped me to feel like I understood the whole process a bit better. I have to say that it all tends to get a bit confusing when I try to read up on malts and hops and their flavours but the real-life, literally hands-on experience was completely different.

Tasting at London Beer Lab
Better than chemistry lessons at school

Anyway, once we brought our wort to the boil (if you haven’t brewed before, the wort is basically sugary water and the basis for any beer) and thrown in our first portion of hops, we had an hour to kill. This is when I got my pint in, and also when I took the opportunity to pick out the £25 worth of beers which came as part of the session – there was also the option to take home a brewing kit, but I already had the equipment at home and it didn’t come with any ingredients, plus it’s Christmas soon and I wanted some beer. By the time I was done browsing the shelves and fridges in the taproom I was actually over the £25, but was happy to pay the difference. I’ve listed out the beers I bought further down, but wanted to make sure I took some London Beer House own-brand home with me as a memento.

Once it was ready, we cooled the beer quickly with an immersion cooler (a coil of pipe which you run cold water through – much easier than the sink full of ice I have used when homebrewing in the past) and added in our next load of hops. Then it was a case of emptying the beer into a bucket, chucking in some yeast and sealing the top. The LBL team take it from there, and once it’s ready I’ll get a notification on Untappd and hopefully get a chance to go down to the taproom to taste it.

All in all, I loved the experience. I’ve done a little bit of homebrewing before (literally three times) but I don’t think you would need to have done it to understand the process and enjoy the session. Having that very real connection between the ingredients and the process makes for a really rewarding and educational few hours that have definitely changed the way I think about beer and reignited my interest in brewing at home.

Book your own session here:

https://www.londonbeerlab.com/beermakingworkshops-s/106.htm

Beers I took home:

  1. 2 bottles of London Brew Lab Mosaic Ekuanot Pale
  2. 2 bottles of London Brew Lab Session IPA
  3. 2 bottles of London Brew Lab Tip Top Citra IPA
  4. Double-Barrelled Seven Dollar Saturday Milk Stout
  5. Mondo Brewing/Yeastie Boys Ask for James
  6. Wiper and True Plum Pudding Porter
  7. Oliver Brewing Co/Stillwater Artisanal Shaken Not Stirred (Ramos Gin Fizz)