What better way to start the new brewing year than at home with a pile of mates! Yes, it is my turn to hold the meeting and I have three cracking beers on, even if I say it myself. The main meal is keeping warm, the nibbles are out and in comes my first ‘customer’.

John W (our Glorious leader) is first to arrive and does so by bike, closely followed by Big John. Ian also arrives by bike and he is followed by Rob who got a lift. It is important to know that Rob got a lift as you will discover towards the end of this missive. Pete and Richard arrive, the latter driving so he is only going to have a couple of halves. Last and by no means least is Stuart, that stalwart who never misses a meeting regardless of the distance (he’s from Hartlepool, you may remember). Everyone safely ensconced in my bar, we get down to what we do best.

I have on offer Rye Owl’d Bitter, a 4% ale made from Maris Otter Pale Malt, Crystal Rye Malt (what else!) and and Torrified Wheat. Challenger hops for the bitterness and Cascade for aroma; EBU 28.

Tawny Bitter (4.5%) is a bit more complex. Ingredients: Pale Malt, Chocolate and Crystal Malt (not Rye malt), Rolled Barley; Torrified Wheat with Cascade hops for both bittering and aroma, yielding an EBU of 28.

I can offer a ‘Guest Beer’ in the form of Mild Autumn from St Andrew’s Brewery (Big John’s). This is a standby in case one of my ales didn’t make it in time.

To complete the set I have a bottled beer on offer as well. This comes in the form of a ‘nip’ something to be sipped rather than quaffed as it is 10.2% ABV. Called, rather cleverly, ‘eavy but ‘umble – see what I did there ? EBU, oh never mind – I brewed and bottled it in February 2010 to bring out at such an occasion as this. I made 5 gallons of it using 10Kg of Pale Malt, Flaked Maize and Roast Barley; Goldings hops for bitterness and Fuggles hops for aroma. For the aficionados out there, I didn’t sparge so as to get such a strong ABV result.

Our Glorious Leader is totally against Rye Malt but that didn’t stop him from downing a couple of the Rye Owl’d Bitter. Once again he imparted some of his knowledge, this time about Angram pumps and how washers and diaphragms can seal themselves. Something to watch out for!

Bikes often get mentioned at our meetings and Rob is on the lookout for a frame. He has put a bid in on Ebay for such an item. You will find out later if he is successful or not. Darlington Branch of CAMRA holds its beer festival in March so the call goes out to the group for volunteers to brew for our stall. If anyone did volunteer, I can’t remember.

Polypins, those unsung plastic receptacles that all members use for storing beer, usually hidden out of view but doing a fine job and something a barrel can’t do, were next up for discussion. Do we buy some out of group funds ?. What’s the best price ?. Who needs any ?. Who buys them if we don’t get them out of group funds ?. We used to get them at breweries such as Hook Norton down in Oxford but it appears all that has stopped. They used to cost around £6 but are £15 if you go to our local brewing supplier so we must find somewhere cheaper. Will we ?. Find out later.

Remember I said the ‘eavy but ‘umble is a nip and should be sipped ?. Who forgot ?. That’s right, our pint sized colleague, Rob. From then on in he is a changed man. His is the next meeting but insists it is in January. No Rob, February. “No”, he insists. “Mine is in a fortnight’s time, so that is in January!”. There are only so many days in January but our Rob doesn’t seem to like February so he will probably go home and change his  calendar. St Valentine’s Day 45th January. Also, there is a new country in Scandinavia! Tweedon, according to Rob. What’s more, our diminutive member has a loud voice. Hide the rest of the bottles! Richard andStuart are taking theirs home as they are driving!

Bottles drunk and food devoured it’s back to discussions about brewing. Malt levels are getting low with some of the guys, me included, so we must have a ‘malt run.’ But wait! Pete has agreed to getting our malt the same time as he gets his for his brewery which saves a drive down to Castleford and pulling a trailer load back. Do we collect it from Pete’s ? Is he delivering to a drop-off point ?. I honestly can’t remember so I shall enquire nearer the time.

Then someone mentions ‘Bass’. Can we still get this tipple and if so, where ?. The Sun Inn in Stockton sells nothing else on all its handpumps. So a trip is organised for next Thursday afternoon and it turns out five of us can make it.

The evening draws to a close and all leave except Ian and Rob. It is now 10.15pm and Rob decides to check to see if his lift is here. No sign so back he comes. “I bet I’ve missed the b*****d!” he exclaims. “I told them 10pm.” He’s a bit unsettled but decides to tell Ian and myself what he would do to murderers! There are some words I can print here but the rest were X rated so I move on. “I’ll just check again”, he says and with that he leaves but doesn’t come back. He’s either walking home (4 miles) or the b*****d picked him up. We’ll find out on Thursday. By 12.30am, Ian leaves on his trusty stead and the light goes out on another meeting.

Thursday comes and we are picked up by Big John and taken to Stockton. On the way we find out that Rob didn’t get the bike frame as someone pipped him to the post by bidding £1 more. At least he must have made it home. The Sun Inn is set back a bit in Knowles Street off the High Street and all they serve is Draught Bass. About a third of a pint is already poured out and is in the fridge awaiting the next customer. The handpump taps are parallel to the handpumps themselves, something we had not seen before. The beer head is wild but the taste is magnificent. If you ever get the chance go!


6TH FEBRUARY AT ROB’S (BALI HAI BREWERY):                                                                  

Firstly, a test. If you can raed tihs wthoiut any pobrlem you slohud udnrnseatd waht I am auobt to tlel you!

Yes folks, we are round at Rob’s bar – Bali Hai – for tonight’s meeting. Being here is a learning curve for it is here that we were first introduced, some time ago, to Torfed Wet, Torrified Wheat to you and I. You see, Rob isn’t the greatest speller in the world. As I write this review Egypt is headline news; Egyptians trying to oust their leader, Mubarak. So Rob thinks he will be topical by naming his beers after Tahrir Square, Cairo Madness and Brotherhood. The latter he spells correctly but Squre and Cario, I ask you.

Not only are his spellings all haywire, he’s in for a bit of cheating as well. Ingredients for the three beers he has on are as follows: Cario Madness – Pale Malt, Crystal Rye Malt and Roast Barley, with Palisade hops for bittering and Northdown hops for aroma; Tahrir Squre – Pale Malt, Crystal Rye Malt, and Northdown hops for both bittering and aroma; Brotherhood – Pale Malt, Crystal Rye Malt, Roast Barley, Northdown hops (bittering) and Palisade hops (aroma). You will be excused for thinking that there is a similarity to these beers. When I confront Rob he owns up to blending the Madness and the Square to make Brotherhood.

However, it’s taste that counts and full marks for the 4% Tahrir Square, a light quaffing ale. The blended 4.1% Brotherhood comes out golden but I thought a bit sweet initially. Cairo Madness, weighing in at 4.3%, is a full bodied dark ale worthy of any bar in the land.

Let’s now turn our attention to Our Glorious Leader, John. First off, he’s knackered! Been moving furniture for his in-laws and never stopped! As soon as he gets to Rob’s he realises he has forgotten Rob’s malt (malt order arrived this week). “Oh well, Rob will just have to wait.” Then we get, “How did I forget it ?”.

Be under no illusion that what follows is totally accurate. This is not down to over indulgence of alcoholic, more the age/memory capability. It is also down to the location of me, your dear writer, who has spent a lot of time in the Middle East, an area known for dryness; not only is there no rain, there is no beer either! Being temperate is not a good state to be in – check out those people you know who are teetotal, need I say more ?. But I digress: on with the review.

Oh, by the way the website was down for quite a few months so the reviews after my ‘do’ were held in abeyance in my notebook for such times as now. I made notes of each meeting in a blue hardback lined notebook which is, as I sit here in Dubai, is on the desk at home. Yes, I have to work by memory hence any inaccuracies that may occur. (If I can’t remember to bring the book how do you expect me to remember what happened ?) Somewhere between my ‘do’ and me jetting off at the end of March there were three meetings I can recall; one at Rob’s, one at Pete’s and one at Ian’s. We’ve looked at Rob’s where nothing earth shattering happened.

Not so with Ian’s ‘do’ for it is here that something was decided with incredible haste – totally alien to the group. Up until this time hops have been bought using group funds and only two varieties at that. When one of the guys wanted some he would pay a nominal amount and get 100 grams. The suggestion was instead of buying two 5kg bags for the whole group why not each member decide which hop they want and pay half; the other half paid for through group funds: and by buying only 1kg each it means we can swap a small amount with one another so eight varieties are available to us. What a good idea!

Anyway, this was the idea which was passed unanimously and we even wrote down who wanted what variety. Ian chose Pilgrim, Rob ordered Target, Our Glorious leader went for Saaz and I went for Mount Hood – the rest escapes my memory.

Hot on the minds of members is that next year is the 10th anniversary of the Brewing Group but what we will do to celebrate this milestone I know not. Watch this space. Between the end of March and the end of June many things may have happened; many things said and done; many beers brewed and drunk; many malts bought and brewed; but one thing I know is the guys had a trip to Hartlepool and were the subject for a film company – that’s two things. So I’ll raise a glass of Heineken to them.


24TH JULY AT TREVOR’S (OWL BREWERY):                                                                           

We now jump to July and I am back in dear old England. I am brewing back to back as it is my ‘do’ on the 24thand I need at least three beers on. So, off we go to Ye Owl’d Pub at the Owl Brewery. I have managed to get the three beers on:

BOREAL ALE 3.9% and 29 EBUs. Pale and Wheat malts and Flaked Maize. Bittering hops are Saaz and Northdown with Mount Hood for aroma. A light crispy ale with a hoppy finish.

TWIT 2 WOO 4% and 31 EBUs. Pale, Crystal and Wheat malts with Flaked Maize. Hops for bittering are Fuggles and I used Mount Hood as post hops, which means to the layman that they were pitched in after the boil for an hour. Lightish ale, dry in the mouth with a very hoppy finish.

OWL’D PECULIAR weighing in at a hefty 6.6% with the EBUs at 34. Pale, Black and Dark Crystal malts and Torrified Wheat. Pilgrim hops for bittering. A rich deep red porter, coffee and chocolate in the mouth.

Sheffield seems to be the place for the group’s outing – we must find out more. Also the question of the Darlington Beer Festival and who would brew something. Talking of brewing, Rob bends our ears about a gluten free beer he is trying to make. Done quite a lot of research on the subject as he knows this guy who has celiac disease. Whether he perfects one we shall wait and see.

Beer of the night was Owl’d Peculiar.


14TH AUGUST AT PETE’S (MITHRIL ALES):                                                                             

Now here’s a dilemma. Mithril Brewery is a real micro brewery. You know the type, brewing for the pubs as opposed to what the rest of the group do – brew for themselves. It’s his living. He does try and keep the two separate and make beers just for the group. Anyway, Albrough St John has a village fete and our Pete brews for them. So what we get is his leftovers, so to speak – only kidding! He has four beers for us to try:

GYMKHANA at 4.0% and EBUs 29. Pale and Light Crystal malts and Torrified Wheat. Challenger at the start of the boil, Cascade after 30 minutes and more Cascade for the last 5 minutes. Crisp, clear, easy drinking with an exuberance of hops in the finish.

6 A SIDE at 4.1% with 28 EBUs. Pale, Dark Crystal, Light Crystal and Munich malts and Torrified Wheat. Challenger at the start of boil, Willamette after 45 minutes, Willamette and East Kent Goldings last 15 minutes and Willamette with 5 minutes to go. A light copper coloured hoppy ale.

DOG RACE at 4.2% 30 EBUs. Pale, Chocolate, Light Crystal and Munich malts with Roast Barley and Torrified Wheat. Galena at the start followed by more after 45 minutes, Saaz for the last 15 minutes with Mittlefruh last 5 minutes.

TREASURE HUNT 4.6% with 35 EBUs to keep it company. Pale, Brown, Chocolate and Dark Crystal malts with Torrified Wheat and Lactose. First Gold was the main hop with Cascade for the last 10 minutes.

You know, for a Yorkshire man he’s not tight with ingredients for his beers. Mind you, for everything else …

Well, Rob was banging on about this gluten free beer he thinks he has perfected. He’s even invited us round to his gaff to try it. For the past week Richard (our resident farmer) has had Dog Trials on his farm (the Border Collie was found guilty and got four years!). Barrels of Mithril Ales have been drunk as Pete supplied the farm. It seems as though Mithril Ales is into everything, even chutney and sausages. Not everything in the garden is rosy as neighbours are complaining about what neighbours complain about – anything. Anyway, Pete is doing his utmost to keep them happy.

There’s a bit of a moan about the efficiency of the current Maris Otter Pale Malt, not achieving its full potential. Stuart doesn’t say much but he piped up, “Hartlepool real ale is crap.” Fair enough.

The Darlington Beer Festival is next on the agenda with the following donating a brew:
Big John – a light beer
Rob – a light beer
John – “a bit of a coppery one”
Trevor – a porter

Then the trip came up but Ian hadn’t done ‘owt about it but is on the case. Rob got serious wind problems after the Mithril sausages. A good night all in all with Gymkhana Beer of the Night.


4TH SEPTEMBER AT IAN’S (TEES CREEK BREWING COMPANY):                                      

Ian has three beers for us tonight:

BARNY BITTER 3.8% and 11 EBUs. Pale and Crystal malts and Flaked Maize with Fuggles and Styrian Goldings hops for bittering with Styrian Goldings also for aroma. Very easy drinking and a quaffing ale!

NEASHAM DARK 4.2% and 29 EBUs. Pale and Chocolate malts plus Roast Barley and Rolled Barley with Challenger hops for bittering and Liberty hops for aroma.

INFINITY PALE ALE 5.0% and 35 EBUs. Pale and Wheat malts with Cascade hops both for bitterness and aroma. Living up to its name it has a cascade of hoppy bitterness. You would be forgiven for thinking this ale is low in alcohol but at 5.0% it isn’t.

Our Annual Trip has been sorted. The lads are going to Sheffield in October. Apparently


Wednesday prior.

Bikes are now the topic of conversation because:

(1) Rob came on his to the meeting.
(2) Stuart (mad fool that he is) rode over from Hartlepool.
(3) Ian has just got a new one for off road biking.
(4) Our Glorious Leader also got one recently.
(5) Things like gear switches, tyre treads, brakes, frames and pedals were discussed with enormous
aplomb. Big John and myself just sat … and sat … Stuart was feeling pretty sore around the proverbial
backside and was offered a bed for the night round at Big John’s but it turns out that Mrs Stuart is coming
to pick him up – sorted!

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