Monday, April 2, 2012

The wonders of malted barley, wheat and hops.

Thought it was time for me to do a 'beer review'. I've saved the last dozen or so bottles and put them in a picture...I know there is at least ONE person out there who actually will think this is interesting...for the rest of you pretend I'm talking about bike racing.

OK, OK...there's only 10 in this photo. I guess I'll have to do a 2nd review-post in a week or so. Basically, I"m working my way thru the beer aisle at the local ASDA grocery store (similar to an Albertsons or Vons, or any other large US chain), trying out as many local brews as possible. Of note, I did not arrange the bottles in any particular order (except for the first and last ones I mean), it's just how they came out out of my 'recycle bag'. After this review they will all head to the recycling center as they can be proud: their job is done.

And so, let the reviews begin.

Starting on the left just happens to be my FAVORITE beer in the whole wide world: Theakstons Old Peculiar. The Theakston brewery is about 20 miles away in the town of Masham. It's been brewing beer on the same site for over 200 years, and is still family owned (to the best of my knowledge). I toured the brewery when I was here 5 years ago, and might go back again if the lousy weather holds up next weekend (rather than doing a bike ride in freezing weather). Old Peculiar (or OP as it's commonly referred to) is a dark English Ale, and is Theakstons most popular beer. At the pubs it's served from the hand engine pulled out of the cask (meaning no external CO2 is used as is typical of 'bar beers'). Cask ales are slightly less fizzy, but typically VERY smooth. Also almost all beers here come from the "beer Cellar" where they are kept, rather than a refrigerated room. REAL beers don't need to be ice cold, as it masks the subtle flavors and aromas.  OP is a nice dark color, with slight hints of chocolaty and a very slight sweet taste from the malt. The bottle-version isn't quite the same as the cask drawn, but is still a very nice bottle-conditioned ale (alcohol content: 5.6%).

Next: Belhaven Brewery's Wee Heavy. This is a Scottish beer. The brewery was established in 1719 and is one of Scotland's oldest surviving regional brewers. Wee Heavy has a "Rich deep flavor derived from the greater proportion of malted barley to hops which characterized Scottish Ales of the 19th century". It has a heavy-sweet taste which really augments it's slightly stronger alcohol content (6.5%). This is certainly in my top 5 ALL TIME favorite beers, and I believe it's imported to the US. The color is darker than a copper ale, but not quite considered a 'dark' ale.

This next beer is imported to the US and I've seen it in the stores: Wychwood brewery's Hobgoblin. This is a "Traditionally Crafted Ruby Beer". "The Legendary Hobgoblin is a blend of smooth, rich flavours from chocolate & crystal malts, combined with a refreshing bitterness from English Fuggles hops & a dash of citrus aroma from Styrian Goldings...a beer of mischievous character". This is a nice brown ale, and has a 5.2% alc content.

#4 is called Nightmare, from Nick Staffords Hambleton Ales brewery founded in 1857. It's a premium Yorkshire Stout, which is a "bottled version of the classic Championship Winter Beer of Britain 1997: a smooth, massively flavoured creamy drink, best served on the warm side allowing full appreciation of the roasted barley rearing out of the flour malt brew". It sits at 5% alc content, and if you like stouts (and I DO), this is truly a winner!

#5 is also from a Yorkshire brewery, it's a Cragg Vale Bitter from Little Valley brewery. This is an organic bottle conditioned bitter sitting at 4.2%. "Cragg Vale Bitter is a rich, red-brown coloured ale with a full and rounded malty body. Using Challenger and Goldings hops, this beer is crisp and fruity with a clean bitter finish".This one was a little lighter than all the previous selections, but sometimes that's just what the Dr. ordered. VERY nice!

#6 is a Batemans XXXB (pronounced "Triple X-B). This was recommended by my local friend (and  is his, it's brewed in his home town of Lincolnshire). This is a "Classic Premium Pale Ale", and sits at 4.8% alc. It has won the CAMRA Premium Beer of the Year (Champion Beer of Britain) five times. It's a copper red bitter brewed by the Batemans family since 1874. This is a very nice Pale ale, and not quite as 'hoppy' as I expected from a pale ale. If I run out of new beers to try (and even if I don't most likely) I'll surely pick up another bottle (or 3) of this jewel!

Next up is Saltaire Brewery's Triple Chochoholic. This is a speciatly chocholate Stout with EXTRA chocolate. Needless to say, this beer has lots of chocolate overtones. Saltaire is also a Yorkshire brewery, and this particular vintage sits at 4.8% alc. It's the SIBA (no idea what that stands for) Winner 2010 Supreme Champion. It's VERY smooth, and if you like stouts that are extra chocolatey, then this is for you!

Up next is Manns Brown Ale. This one is by FAR the lowest alc at a lowly 2.8% (kids beer). "Manns is the original Brown Ale, first brewed at the Mann's Whitechapel brewery in 1902. The historic recipe produces a dark, rich, full bodied ale with a luscious flavour and hits of roasted creamy toffee". Quite honestly, this was the cheapest to buy of all my beers thus far, and was pretty decent. The lower alc content doesn't affect the taste at all, and it was very drinkable.

2nd to last in this picture is Shepherd Neame brewery's Spitfire. This brewery was established in 1698, and is Britain's oldest brewer. This is a premium Kentish ale, and is named after the Spitfire airplane which fought in the skies above Kent in the Battle of Britain. It's a dark amber to auburn in color, has hints of fruit and toffee aroma, and is somewhat hoppy and bitter. It sits at 4.5% alc, and was a nice addition to my "Tour of Britain's Beers".

And last (but CERTAINLY not least) is Black Sheep Ale. This is also brewed in Masham, in fact, right across the street from Theakstons Brewery. Many generations ago there was a rift in the Theakstons family, and there was a split. They moved across the street and started their own brewery. Black Sheep Ale is "the culmination of six generations of brewing expertise". This is a very nice bitter with a light copper color, and is typical of a nice English pub bitter. It's 4.4% alc is right in there with standard English ales. You might notice that I separated this particular bottle at the far end of the picture as it and the OP were having words in the recycle bag. Apparently the family rift is still ongoing.

Not shown in this picture (sadly) is Black Sheep's Riggwelter, which is Black Sheep's version of Old Peculiar. I had a Riggwelter and then an Old Peculiar (one after another) this last Saturday evening, and quite honestly, they are both EXTREMELY good. I think the Riggwelter is slightly lighter in both colour and flavour, and it's alc content is 5.7%, which is right in there with it's esteemed older brother OP. It's billed as a "Strong Yorkshire Ale" and is just BARELY behind (by a hair) OP as my FAVORITE beer. Between these two, it's whatever is cheaper. 

And so, this wraps up my FIRST ever beer review column. I'm down to LESS than 3 weeks to go here if you can believe it! And our weather is taking a SERIOUS turn for the worst. A week ago we were in the mid 70's, and TOMORROW's high is supposed to be only 38...what's up with THAT? So, no bike rides for the Mattster for the next few days. We might actually get SNOW on Weds, as it works it's way down from Scotland tomorrow afternoon. Maybe I'll hoof my way up to ASDA tomorrow after work and see what's calling for me in the beer aisle.

And one final note (to slip in just a tiny bit of cycling): HEAL FAST FABIAN! Gosh....I can't recall him EVER being hurt before! Some VERY bad timing for sure...smack in the middle of the Classics. But Boo Boo is having a real banner year, wasn't sure he had it left in him. Have a great week!



  1.'s not just for breakfast anymore!

    Gary made it safely to Memphis and his sis said his eyes were open the first 20 min of the flight. I call this a successful day!

    And yes, poor Fabian. He's the only one on our team that has had a win so far, so with him out I am hoping some other guys step up!! I knew it was too good to be true that I'd have something (good) to write about for the first time during the classics! ;-)

    1. Wow Cathy...that's WONDERFUL news! Keep us posted as his recovery continues. I guess this is one of those things I can't dwell on, or I'll never be able to ride on a road again. I'd be very interested to hear the 'legal' story as this plays out. Seems every time a car smacks a cyclist they are all 'my fault' at first, then the lawyers get involved and suddenly it's somehow the cyclist's fault.

      And as to Leopard-Shack, it just seems UNFATHOMABLE that with THAT crew there's only ONE win so far! Hopefully that changes in a BIG way very soon!

  2. BTW, read the last paragraph of my race report today - all of you Jensie fans will loved his tweets about the stage. He is one of a kind. The other day his new car broke down so after he sent the kids home in a taxi, he tweeted 33 times to tell about waiting for the tow truck, pictures of same, etc. Hilarious! Link for today's report:

  3. GREAT news Cathy! Thanks for the update.

    OMG - I was laughing so hard at the Jens tweets the other day and the photos of his mini-van being lifted onto a truck. That guys faces life with such an amazing attitude - we all need to be more like Jens:)

    Well, now I'm in insurance hell. The lady to hit my car had Geico (which will hence forth be known as The Evil Geico - TEG). I spent all last week sending her things - police report, photos, etc, etc, etc. The police report charges the other driver with being in the wrong lane and states that she told the officer that she cut the curve in the road too tightly. TEG calls me Monday morning and says that they are denying all liability for the accident. WHAT?!?!? I've got to tell you - I really cannot remember being that enraged at anyone. So far I've spent this week doing all of the same things for MY insurance company who will have to fight TEG. Meanwhile, no one has yet looked at my car to see if it can be fixed and I'm paying for a rental vehicle. grrrrrrrrr. This is when I need to channel my Jens attitude ;)

    Thanks for the link Cathy. I was actually thinking of you when Fabian was sitting on the road at RVV. Very disappointing for the team. I'm hoping that someone else will step up this weekend. He has a good attitude about everything as well. I loved the video that RSNT sent out via Twitter - I think from the team site?

    My parents had an outdoor easter egg hunt for my kids and their cousin today. Beautiful sunny 60s day and the kids had an absolute blast. they are all wound up for Easter and its going to be a long 3 days wait!

    Have a great week all!

  4. Matt, I hadn't read your comment about your experiences with the GOOD HANDS PEOPLE before posting tonnight. LMAO! I was SOOOOOOOO angry Monday that I took to Twitter and tagged everything with #evilGeico. Next morning I had a tweet from Geico Service asking if there was anything that they could do to help me (HAH). I replied (to all) with what was happening and didn't hear a peep back from them! So I've enlarged my WAR ON GEICO further. My friends are also taking to Twitter and FB to spread the word about how HORRIBLE they are. The Geico gal told me that she didn't care what was on the police report because the police officer was not a witness to the accident!!! So what then happens to our entire criminal justice system?? I'm fairly certain that the police officers testifying in court did not actually witness most burglaries, assaults, and murders that they are called to testify about! Just WRONG WRONG WRONG if this is the way the company treats people!! My husband has a co-worker who used to work for Geico. She told him she left because GEICO IS THE DEVIL.

    OK - deep breaths - calm down - channel Jens and have a positive attitude -
    Sorry for the RANT!

    1. Hey JD...let me tell you MY TEG story. When I was in Hawaii years ago (in the Navy), they have No Fault Insurance. All that means to ME is that they have a 2 bit phrase that somehow gives them a reason to JACK UP my rates, even though I've NEVER had an accident. So I start shopping around, and end up with TEG (actually, Hawaii is considered OVERSEAS so it's TEG Indemnity). Of course, I didn't know there was a diff between Geico and Geico Indemnity. 4 years later move back to VA (still in the Navy) and immediately go down to the local TEG office in VA Beach, and transfer my car insurance to VA...they ask me all the usual (accidents, tickets, etc)...none, none and none. So away we go, paying my new policy which still seemed 'kinda high'. 6 months or so later I'm yakkin' it up w/ a co-worker and HE has a Chevy Astro Conversion van AND a Mazda 626 TURBO insured w/ Geico, and HIS rates are lower than MINE are for a lowly Honda CRX and an old Pontiac. So I call TEG on the phone and ask for a rate quote (do NOT tell them I'm insured w/ them) and the quote is WAY WAY lower than what I'm paying! So they ask me "would you like us to save this quote?" and I reply "oh yes, I'll be down in half an hour!"

      Get down there (SAME EXACT OFFICE I came to 6 months prior...says "GEICO" on the building) and blast them w/ this new information! The lady looks up MY account, and says "oh, well, you're insured with Geico Indemnity, not Geico. Geico INDEMNITY is for our riskier drivers." I about blow a gasket here...NO ONE SAID ANYTHING ABOUT THIS 6 MONTHS AGO...when the ASKED ME (and have my records) about tickets/accidents/etc...NONE! She says "well, they should have transferred you to Geico then"...which by then steam is blowing out of the top of my head (they've been ROBBING ME of a LOT of money every month due to this 'oversight').

      WELL....(story not over yet) the lady actually asks "would you like to swtich over to Geico?" (again, it only says GEICO on the building, nothing about "Indemnity"). So I say yes I would. So...she starts filling out paperwork, and says we need to go look at my car (we're getting full coverage). So WE go outside, and she's going around the car w/ her little clipboard, checking boxes, taking notes (the car is mint). And then suddenly she asks "do you own a radar detector?" to which I reply "yes I do". Let me set the stage VA, radar detectors are illegal to USE, not to own. I travel up into PA and NY lots, or down to NC/SC...and only hook it up and use it when I pass out of VA.

      (TEG Rant Continued in Part 2, as this got rather long)

    2. Part 2

      SO...then she asks if I have it in the car, which I reply "yes" (it's in the glove box, which also is NOT illegal). The only way it's "illegal" is to have the power cord IN the car with the power cord is in the hatch/ I'd have to stop the car and get out, open the hatch to get the cord...totally legal. I show it to her, and she says thank you, and she takes her clipboard and walks back inside (I think to myself "that was strange"). So I follow her in, and she disappears behind the counter, and doesn't come back. About 5 minutes later a man comes out and says my name. I hold up my hand, and he has me come up to the counter. I do, and he has HER clipboard...and then he tells me he's the branch manager, and he says to me "I'm sorry sir, but you're UN-insurable by Geico". I say "excuse me?" and he then says (and this is burned into my tiny brain for the rest of my life) "Geico does not want to insure the kind of people who would own one of those things". Yes dear friends, I'm ONE OF THOSE KIND OF PEOPLE! A REAL EVIL-DOER! Criminal of the HIGHEST ORDER! Yep...spent most of my life behind bars for my wicked crimes against humanity!

      What did I do at this point? I walked right out of there, and drove to the nearest State Farm office and told them this story, and asked if THEY have any problem with me OWNING one of "those things", and he asked if I had any tickets for using it, which I do not. He laughed and said no problem, and we switched ALL our insurance over right then and there (and it was WAY cheaper btw). I THEN had the PLEASURE of going right back down to TEG office and cancelling my insurance. When the lady asked me why, I got to smile and tell her that "I'm one of THOSE KINDS OF PEOPLE". She didn't understand of course, and I explained to her and told her what the branch manager told me just hours before...I think she felt pretty bad and was actually pretty nice (obviously it wasn't HER fault the nasty manager said that to me).

      So how do I feel about TEG to this day? GEICO can KISS MY BUTT! YEP! If they (and THE GOOD HANDS PEOPLE) were the LAST TWO INSURANCE COMPANIES on the face of the planet, I'd take my chances with no insurance. Hopefully you got a chuckle out of this, and I'll keep my fingers crossed that you don't get screwed by TEG! But in reality, you already are...THEY should be covering your rental car, and get you car fixed, and then THEY need to go after the other lady to get the money...this shouldn't be impacting YOU.

      DO NOT LET THEM GET AWAY WITH IT! Take a page from Jeannie's book...become HARD AS NAILS! They are counting on you folding and them saving money that they SHOULD pay out. Become a HUGE NUISANCE! Call, Call, Call...go up the chain, and do NOT give up! You need to wear THEM down, not the other way around. Steele yourself for WAR. That's what you are in. There are many battles, you only need to win in the end. (and not go crazy or have a nervous breakdown). Good luck!

    3. Wow...that turned into a post! (only saw how long it was after I posted the replies). Hope you had a beverage and were comfy!

  5. Oh, Janann, does your state have an insurance commissioner or similar state office? Maybe your state's attorney general? Contact them with your story and see if they will help. I've had marvelous luck with similar offices here in Ohio when I have had service and billing issues with AT&T, when they were clearly in the wrong, even admitted so, but wouldn't correct the bills.


    1. I should explain that the Public Utilities Commission gave me a "back office" phone number and contact at AT&T who immediately resolved the issue (both times). I think that the AT&T person was well aware of how I got the number and name and that carried some weight. So I am thinking that your state's insurance commissioner might have at least that to offer, in order to expedite things, short of filing a formal complaint. Also, did you take a photo at the scene, showing the location of your car in your lane and her car in your lane? (I don't have a camera on my cell phone, so that wouldn't be an option for me).

  6. Thanks Matt - I loved your story! THOSE KIND OF PEOPLE! I needed a smile :) I'm afraid I am in for a war. Here's the update. I filed everything with my insurance company and they sent an adjustor out this week. The estimate is in for my vehicle ($6600) and they immediately signed off on that. I signed the work order today and was able to take back my rental ($365) and get a loaner (FREE!!) from the shop that will be fixing it. They estimate another 10-12 working days to get it fixed since they couldn't even order parts until this paperwork went through. My insurance company tells me that the check for repairs (minus my $500 deductible) will be here in a day or so and that they will be fighting TEG in arbitration. He told me that he expects it to take months. I also have to buy 2 new car seats, as you can't use car seats after they've been involved in a crash. TEG should also be paying for those (should have been part of their estimate I'm told). But....since they denied all liability and refused to even do an estimate, I just need to go out and buy those as well - hoping that I'll get that money back some day too. My bet is that I never see that deductible, car seat money, or rental money again..... Sad that you can just be driving down the street minding your own business, following the rules and this can happen. I KNOW that we're extremely lucky and remind myself of that all the time as I spend much of my days dealing with this mess. That's all it is - a mess - but the injustice of the whole thing grates on me.

    That is a great suggestion, Rae! I haven't checked into what our state has in that dept, but it is definitely worth a shot. Thanks!! I did have @ 8 good photos on my cell phone that I emailed to both insurance companies. They clearly show my car @ 12 inches from the parked car on my side of the road. Her van bounced off of my car and went backward into her lane, but you can clearly see that there is TONS of room to the right of her side of the road. When I asked the EVIL GEICO lady about this she told me that those photos don't mean anything because she has no idea where the accident really took place on the road! She said that I could have been on the other side of the road (as her customer now claims) and bounced back to my side (coincidentally absolutely parallel to the parked car and apparently straight sideways after being hit in the front). How can you even argue wiht that craziness?!?

    OK, on to racing. Boonen is looking tough!! I'm super bummed that Fabian crashed out last weekend because I would have LOVED to see those 2 competing head to head in PR! Tommeke took a page right out of Fabs' book. Amazing win for him! What are the dates for the ToC? Are you going Rae and Matt? CANT WAIT!!

    Thanks for your support with my insurance frustrations all! Sometimes it just helps to vent ;)