2012

15TH JANUARY 2012 AT TREVOR’S (THE OWL BREWERY):

Happy New Year to all our readers throughout the world.

The first meeting of 2012 kicks off at Trevor’s. The weather is bitter and so is my first offering, Hoppy Scops 4.2%. Pearl and Crystal malts, Flaked Maize and Torrified Wheat combined with Mount Hood hops for bitterness and Bobek hops for aroma to give a hoppy beer which some would say a bit too bitter with an EBU of 40 but I liked it.

Coming in at 4.4% abv is Brown Wood Bitter: Pearl Malt, Torrified Wheat and Chocolate malt; Target and Pilgrim for bitterness and Mount Hood for aroma. A well rounded beer with chocolate aftertaste, EBU 35.

Up next is an experiment – Banana Bread Beer (4.5%). Pearl and Wheat malts, Roast Barley and Torrified Wheat with Mount Hood, Target and Pilgrim used for bittering and Bobek for aroma to give an EBU of 30. Added to this was a couple of pounds of bananas and a loaf of bread. I told you it was an experiment. Anyhow, the aroma of bananas was prevalent when the beer was being dispensed but nothing in the taste. Maybe if I allow it to mature for a week or so it may change – beer does that, you know!

Last and by no means least is everyone’s favourite (I make more of this than all other beers combined!) Owl’d Peculiar 6.6% abv. Pearl, Black and Crystal malts, Torrified Wheat and Pilgrim hops make up this vinous delight with 32 EBUs.

First to arrive on his trusty steed is a very cold John, our Glorious Leader. With a candle dangling from his nose, he sniffs and removes his jacket but the first thing on his mind is the darts final on the telly. On goes the television and the first pints of the evening are pulled. Another trusty steed brings Ian who pulls his own pint and comes and joins us.

The bar is now filling up with the rest of the guys, those interested in the darts pull their pints and exit into the lounge leaving the rest of us in the bar. Only Mark didn’t show. The darts final is now over, so it’s all in the bar and getting on with what we all do best, drinking and talking. Ian shares the problem he has at work (he’s a brewer by profession you may recall). The gasket on the boiler has finally given in to old age and until a replacement is found the vessel can only take half the volume. The bar is awash with ideas.

This wouldn’t be a review without, “Right, listen to this, right ?” and our Glorious Leader taking centre stage with the hottest topic of the night – our tenth Anniversary. I will guide you through, dear reader. “My place is too small,” he shouts. “There will be loads of people there!” Admittedly, his bar is small and can only hold five or six at the most. As to who the ‘loads of people’ are, I question. We are told that a local journalist is coming, as is the ex beer writer for the Newcastle Journal. Add them up and you get … Two! Add to that the nine members of the group, that’s eleven. Who knows, WAGs may be invited and perhaps the odd ex-member may turn up. Then there’s the lads from the BBC (a couple of years ago we were featured in a programme and our hobby gave root to a group being set up in the Newcastle area). So he could be right.
“I’m telling you,” cries our Glorious Leader. “It’s too small.” It’s okay because I’ve offered the use of my bar, along with the lounge and dining room. Should get the hoards in here.

“There are so many people who want to come,” he says. I refer to my comment earlier. Perhaps we should inform ‘Hello’ magazine!

The upshot is that it will be held at the Owl Brewery (Ye Owl’d Pub) on 30th June. I bet you can’t wait for the review on that night. Nothing to do with that – one of the nibbles on offer was a prawn ring. Poor Stuart. He was starving. “I’m so hungry I’ve eaten a prawn, and I don’t like them! I was forced to!”. Chicken al a King was served.

The problem of using two rooms is that as your ace reporter can only be in one room at a time so I apologise for not recording everything that was said, even though it might be profound. Who knows ?. A conversation struck up about farming with our farmer in situ Richard. Things are not good in farming so why continue, I ask him. “It’s in the blood,” he answers. Without people like him where would we get our barley and wheat ?.

Next we have a deep discussion about the Darlington Beer Festivals of the future. You see, with the economy being as it is, councils throughout England are having to make cut-backs. The Arts Centre, venue for the festivals in the past, is closing. Where is there a facility for holding future events ?. Much debate followed.

Stuart is in a quandary whether to pursue his lifelong ambitions or continue a humdrum existence – no competition, I say. Still on the subject of Stuart, he volunteered to do a few of these reviews when I’m off on my travels. He volunteered! Not only that but he smiled when he said it. Wow!

Next meeting is in three weeks at Pete’s, the home of Mithril Ales

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5TH FEBRUARY AT PETE’S (MITHRIL ALES):                                                                                             
It is bitterly cold, ice under foot and the last remnants of a recent snow fall strewn across the landscape. You wouldn’t send a dog out in such conditions. But for eight stalwarts of the Brewing Group the weather means nothing as we arrive at Pete’s bar for another session of beer tasting, and camaraderie.

This particular day was a long one for me as I set off in the gentle heat of Dubai to be met by the icy conditions previously mentioned. Yes, I’ve been on the go for 18 hours. But this journey pails into insignificance as John Winterburn, Our Glorious Leader tells all of his story. Apparently, the bus he caught to get down to the town so that he could meet the minibus which was taking us to tonight’s meeting was pelted by snowballs and the windscreen was smashed so he had to get a taxi. “Snowballs!” he shouts.

Upon arriving at Pete’s I immediately make for the toilet. Not in desperation, you understand, but in a strategy of intrigue explained later on in this missive.

The names of Pete’s offerings for tonight are based on rugby teams namely: England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Imaginative, eh!

WALES: Our rugby aficionado kicked off with this light ale. Pale, Munich, Chocolate and Crystal malts; Torrified Wheat; with Junga (Poland) hops for bittering and Saaz and Mittlefruh for aroma. A light session beer, crisp, with body you’d expect for a 3.8% ale

ENGLAND: Next in the scrum was this pleasant offering. Not a kick and a spit from ‘WALES’ in being a session beer with a slightly higher abv 3.9%. Pete has used Pale Malt, Light Crystal Malt and Torrified Wheat. Northdown hops give a welcome bitterness with Nelson Sauvin and Liberty late hopped.

SCOTLAND: More malts than Mr Malt, who lives in Malt Street and works in a Malteser factory in Malta! Pale, Amber, Chocolate, Dark Crystal and Wheat malts with Torrified Wheat. Hops: bittering – Apollo, and late hop – Mittlefruh. A ruby red, well rounded ale with the lingering tastes you’d expect with so many ingredients. At 4.2% abv., a joy to behold. A drop goal indeed!

IRELAND: The prop forward at 4.3% is a lightish beer made from Pale and Wheat Malts, and Torrified Wheat. Perle hops provide the bitterness with again Perle hops late in the boil, accompanied by Dried Elderflowers.

Mark, the newest recruit is not with us tonight ‘cause he’s working. But joining us tonight is Ian Thompson. How he dare show his ugly mush after insulting me earlier in the week in an email I don’t know. He had the bare faced audacity to say I was getting like John Winterburn. What a thing to say!

Stuart is the first to go to the toilet and comes back in fits of laughter. “Has anyone seen this ?” (not since Rob’s fine erection – see Dec 2011 review). He refers to a poster on the wall in Pete’s convenience. I remain sitting writing notes for this review as one by one each bloke heads off to the toilet to see what all the hoo-ha is about.

I shall now venture to tell you what was on the poster and events leading up to it without giving too much away for obvious reasons. One of our members, referred to as the ‘guilty one’, acquired a certain piece of equipment which he … well … put it this way – didn’t pay for it. I got a telephone call from the very worried ‘guilty one’ wanting to know if I had written about it in the review. Of course I hadn’t. The aforesaid poster supposedly from a well-known police force had a picture of the ‘guilty one’ along with humorous dialogue and sketches. Now I suggested it was Pete who made the poster after all it is his toilet. The fingers were pointing at each other then at me. I refer to my first action upon arriving at Pete’s.

Earlier in the evening Ian Thompson skirted around the issue with the ‘guilty one’ and a strange phenomena occurred. The guilty one’s left ear went bright red but the right one went white. What’s all that about ?. All is not well with our Hartlepudlian (people from Hartlepool for our foreign readers). He tells the group that he has decided to give up work in order to follow other pursuits, which is a good idea if finances allow. However, Stuart also tells us that he has a chest infection. “I’ve got one,” says our Glorious Leader, John. “And I’ve got a hernia.” Thanks John for telling us that. “I can’t lift 12 gallons of beer anymore!”. Yeah, thanks John. “I have to go to the hospital.” Wasn’t this paragraph supposed to be about Stuart ?.

Low and behold, the conversation changes to ‘falling off bikes’ headed by Stuart, which includes Ian and his falling-off experiences and then, you’ve guessed, “I’ve fallen off bikes so many times …” Thanks for that John. “And this weather doesn’t help my chest: it feels like it’s been ripped open!” Again, thank you.

Some may remember that Our Glorious Leader found some malt that was 18 years old. He sent it off to a lab to see if it could still be used and waited with baited breath for the reply. Sorry John, it looks like you are going to have to wait another 18 years for the answer. Not very quick these men in white coats.

Stuart, our Hartlepudlian, bought a car this week. A Volvo. In Southampton. He flew down and saved himself £1000. Not bad.

It is no secret that I make my own shirts and trousers, short sleeved long, loose fitting shirts with embroidery, with cotton trousers of unconventional colours, ie. gold, pastel green, etc; that I only wear sandles, never socks or shoes, regardless of the weather; and a Rolex on my wrist. To sum up, I am an incredible dresser with class. But to the rest of the group, who have no taste, say “I wear pyjamas” – why do I bother ?.

Beer of the Night is ‘Scotland’. Thanks to Pete for a good night, good beer and jolly decent fayre.

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26TH FEBRUARY AT IAN’S (TEES CREEK BREWING COMPANY):                                        

Ian lives at the other end of town from Our Glorious Leader – John Winterburn, Big John Anderson and myself. I cajole my son to drive us to our venue tonight. We got to Big John’s who came out of the house with a box full of empty beer bottles and put them in the boot of the car. I have a couple of brews I want to bottle: one a Jaggery Pale Ale for summer and the other, a Ginger Ale for Christmas. It always pays to think ahead.

“Stuart is coming,” says John. So we hung around for a couple of minutes waiting for our Hartlepudlian to arrive. Which he did, presently. And off we went to pick up Our Glorious Leader. On the way Stuart comes out with, “I’ve got something to tell youz!” (they talk like that in Hartlepool). We knew he was anxious to let rip but didn’t drop any clues as to what it was. Our Glorious Leader is now in the car and Stuart pops up again with, “I’ve got…etc.,” to which Our Glorious Leader added, “And so have I.” He always has!

We arrive at Ian’s and there before us is Rob, resplendent in some latexy cycling uniform, a tight, zipped jacket, tight trousery things and special shoes for pedalling. From the side he looks like Max Wall with glasses but without the hair and the black jacket and the walk – alright, he doesn’t look like him. Yes, he had cycled the six miles or so from his abode to our watering hole that is Ian’s bar. I can’t wait to hear what Stuart has to tell us all. But not everyone is here so I have to wait.

It turns out that Rob, our diminutive cyclist, has had a funny turn recently. Eyes not working, face feeling weird and his left side extremities have been tingling. Apparently it has all passed over without Rob making a fuss. “It’s nowt really,” says Rob. Now, I’m no doctor but this sounds like a stroke to me. And to the others assembled. In true caring manner we decide who wants what if he croaks. I think Stuart might want the bike! Nobody claims the latex cycling paraphernalia, wisely.

Our country cousins, in the shape of Pete and Richard, are late arriving which doesn’t stop the rest of us from doing what we came for. And on offer tonight we have three beers:

Neasham Best, a 4% ABV pleasant ale which is easy on the palette. Ian has used Pale and Crystal malts and Roast Barley which gives it a reddish colour. Not at all bitter, weighing in at only 14 EBUs. He used Challenger and Mount Hood hops.

Next we have Girsby Ale, with a low 15 EBUs. Pale, Crystal and Wheat malts; with Challenger and Styrian Goldings hops. A light coloured ale with a dry mouth feel (Wheat malt does that, you know). Strength-wise we are talking 4.3% ABV.

Onto our third offering, Darlo Porter. A bone of contention here as I hate abbreviations and the worst of them all is ‘Darlo.’ The town is Darlington, why shorten it ?. Anyway, that’s my gripe now onto the porter. Pale, Chocolate and Crystal malts; Flaked Barley and Roast Barley with Fuggles and Styrian Goldings hops give this Porter the taste that’s not a kick-and-a-spit from his award winning Black Diamond (Christmas 2010). ABV 4.4%, EBUs 25. Very malty on the nose, just what a good porter should be.

Country cousins in situ, Stuart delivers his much awaited proclamation.

Stuart, who leaves his place of employment at the end of March, with a resounding “Yippee!” is taking up building. But that isn’t the main part of this announcement: not by a long chalk. He is going to start up a new brewing group in Hartlepool. He is not leaving our fine band of men, no! no! He may not attend all meetings but he won’t turn his back on us. Many people, and by that I don’t mean just men are interested in brewing. Not surprising when you consider the alternative – paying upwards of £2.70 a pint. But wait, there’s more! A mixed group, something our little band of misogynists won’t tolerate. I wouldn’t care but in years past 5,000 feet up in the Andes remains were found of a brewery and jewellery was also found nearby which geologists determined that ‘royal’ women were brewing. How they got water up that far I don’t know but they managed it. Perhaps on the back of asses. Unless they waited until it rained. Women brewed! Women brew! Women will brew!, ‘nuff said. So it looks like Stuart is going to be Our Glorious Leader over a gathering of Hartlepudlian brewers. Good luck to him.

Time for, “Right, listen. I’ve got something to tell you all.” Yes it’s Our Glorious Leader and this time he is going to tell us about beer clearing in fluctuated temperatures. We all know it will make the beer cloudy but that doesn’t stop him. A high attenuation with yeast … yes, we know! Doesn’t stop him from telling us again.

Then up he pops with, “I have to have an operation.” Turns out, he has a hernia.  “I can’t lift anything!” (we know, you have a hernia). “I won’t be able to brew!” (we know, you have a hernia).

Everyone is getting a bit low on malt so the count goes out. Rob puts his hand up, thinking he is voting for something. Our Glorious Leader says he wants some but doesn’t know when he will be brewing next (we know, he has a hernia). Hop levels are down as well so we’ll have to be having some more.

Beer of the night goes to Darlo Porter. Nice drink, shame about the name.

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30TH JUNE 2012. THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION AT TREVOR’S:                       

Remember the hundreds of guests who were coming to join us in our celebration of ten years of brewing ?. Well, Our Glorious Leader, John Winterburn, sent out the invitations. Sorry, that should be singular – invitation. It was Mike Amos stalwart reporter of the Northern Echo who did us proud a few days later by giving us a mention in his column. Not as polished as this review will be (time will tell), but nonetheless all the names were spelt correctly.

As I sit here I remember seeing a WAG in the form of Big John Anderson’s wife who came for a short time then disappeared. ‘She-who-must-be-obeyed’ was also around (it is part her house as well as mine), but wisely cleared off upstairs to read for four hours.

Being promised hoards of people turning up I thought I would employ my son, Michael, as resident barman but he wasn’t needed so went home. That leaves us with all the group members (and Mike Amos) – less Richard who was making hay while the sun declines the invitation to shine upon us or anyone else on this typical wet summer day! God help the farmer!

The plan was simple. Each member bring a sample of their beer and something to eat. Accomplished. Centre stage was Our Glorious Leader’s corned beef pie. This, along with sausages (minus sticks) but in rolls and sausage meat with onions; sandwiches; other pies and other consumables, made this a decent fayre. (I have now written more than Mike Amos did in his column!).

The important bit. Seven beers, six good, one not so good but his corned beef pie more than made up for it. Admittedly, Our Glorious Leader knew it wasn’t all that good as he kept the best one in his shed for visitors. The same shed that, ten years earlier, sparked off Darlington Traditional Brewing Group; something Our Glorious Leader should be proud of, and something the group is grateful for.

On offer reading from left to right as you face the bars:

‘Shadow’ from Big John’s St Andrew’s Brewery
‘Summer Breeze’ from Pete’s Mithril Ales
‘Red Knight’ from Stuart’s Old Hartlepool Brewery
‘Trailblazer’ from Ian’s Tees Creek Brewing Company.
‘Tiananmen Square’ from Rob’s Bali Hai Brewery
‘Wild Rover’ from Our Glorious Leader John W’s Shed Brewery
‘Owl’d Peculiar’ from Trevor’s Owl Brewery

Not only do we make good beers we have good names for them as well. Everyone’s beer has improved over the years due to Darlington Traditional Brewing Group. We don’t fish for compliments rather we want constructive criticism, suggestions etc. which allows us to grow as brewers. This is testified at the Darlington Beer Festival, by punters trying our beers and realising we can brew as good as, and often better beers than commercial brands. And at a fraction of the cost!

We haven’t all been in the group for ten years. I started about four years ago along with Stuart and Big John. Pete, Ian and Richard have been in the longest – Pete has changed his hobby into his profession and owns Mithril Ales. Ian has been a professional brewer. Rob joined a few years later, after sampling brews at the aforesaid beer festival.

Many others have come and gone, some I know and others who are just a name. But I bet they all left with a greater knowledge of the fine art of brewing.

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23RD SEPTEMBER 2012 AT IAN’S (TEES CREEK BREWING COMPANY) – Review by Ian 

It’s 5.50pm and the final countdown to the start of my meeting. Nibbles are out on the bar and table and the beers are being pulled through and checked for clarity. However, the process is brought to a sudden halt by a knock at the door and on reaching it I spy a waft of grey hair stood by the door – it can only be John W our Glorious Leader! A touch early and the first one to arrive.

I welcome him in and he peruses the three beers I have on offer tonight from the Tees Creek Brewing Company: Harvest Home 3.8%, Blackwell Blonde 4.2% and Night Moves at 4.6%. John W starts with Harvest Home, one of my autumn seasonal beers brewed with Pale, Crystal and Chocolate malts with Torrified Wheat along with Hallertau, Northern Brewer and Perle hops. It’s a while since I brewed this beer and I was very impressed with how it came out and taste wise was very addictive – trying to keep off it prior to the meeting was a difficult thing I can tell you!

We discuss events at the previous meeting in which there was a ‘bit of a kerfuffle’ regarding transport and as John and myself talk about it, Mark, a previous member of the group walks past the window and knocks on the door. He’s caught the brewing bug again and is coming along to meetings once more. Not long after Big John and Stuart show up and the pints begin to get pulled on a more frequent basis.

While everyone else has started on the Harvest Home, John W is on to the second beer of the night, “Blackwell Blonde”, a pale coloured beer with Pale and Wheat malts plus Rolled Barley and Challenger hops used as a copper hop with Mount Hood added as a late hop. Following this one, John W was the guinea pig for the third beer of the night, “Night Moves”, a dark beer brewed in honour of the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix being held on this day which is a night race on the streets of Singapore. Most of my beers are related to the River Tees and various locations on it however being an F1 fan, I realised this race was on the day of my meeting so an opportunity not to miss! Night Moves is a dark beer brewed using Pale and Dark Crystal Malts plus Roast Barley and Rolled Barley with First Gold hops both in the main boil and added as a late hop.
At 4.6% it is eminently drinkable!

Time marches on and while we are waiting for our country cousins, we are wondering where Rob is. Following the ‘kerfuffle’ at Pete’s, we are not sure if he is coming but Big John assures us he is, and sure enough he does, and at the same time Pete and Richard our country cousins. As is the norm with our country cousins the nibbles soon disappear and John W, our Glorious Leader delivers his thrice weekly sermon to us all about brewing bits he has discovered from somewhere (?). Also up for discussion is the group funds and as John W has brought the account book, it is scrutinised in detail. As the ‘kerkuffle’ was based around transport, we all agreed that to assist group funds whenever we hire a minibus, those that use it pay a contribution towards the cost of the bus – all agreed on that one then!

Food is served in the form of a Spanish stew with chicken, chorizo, cabbage and ‘infamous’ white beans and soaks up the beer very adequately before other items are discussed. Beer of the night is “Night Moves”, another of my dark beers being chosen as a winner by the brewing group lads following Darlo Porter and Black Diamond – are they trying to tell me something ??.

All in all a good night – thanks guys! And finally, out of the beers on tonight which one was the odd one out ?. Was it Harvest Home, Blackwell Blonde or Night Moves ?.

Answer: Blackwell Blonde as the other two are songs by Big Country and Bob Seger respectively!

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14TH OCTOBER AT JOHN W’S (THE SHED!) – Review by Stuart                                          

John had three fine Ales on offer in his legendary shed, Bunny Hops at 3.8%, Samhain at 4% with Nimmos XXXXX coming in at a punchy 6%!

On my arrival Big John, Ian and Mark our re-recruit were already there and John as per usual provided a variety of nibbles on the bar while the legendary corned beef pie warmed up nicely in the oven!

Onto the beers. Bunny Hops consisted of Pale and Light Crystal Malt plus Torrified Wheat. Apollo and Cascade hops worked quite well to give a good balance of flavour and it had a complex make up. John W brewed this beer to try and get a colour and flavour reminiscent of the much revered Magnet.

Samhain had Pale malt and Torrified Wheat as the base for this ale with Target hops used to achieve an interesting flavour. Regarding the name, John W was not best pleased to hear about a local brewery also producing a beer called Samhain. Samhain is a Gaelic Festival marking the end of the harvest season held around the end of October and nowadays tends to be celebrated as Halloween.

Finally, Nimmos XXXXX  was crafted with Pale Malt and Flaked Maize using Cascade and Citra hops used during the boil to give a balanced flavour. However, as mentioned before it came in at a punchy 6% and for the likes of me one to sip and savour!

Beer of the night was voted and Bunny Hops was picked as the winner by the majority of drinkers on the night.

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3RD NOVEMBER AT RICHARD’S (PRIMROSE HILL BREWERY) – Review by Stuart (helped by Ian!)

With the majority of meetings being on a Sunday, Richard’s meeting broke the norm with it being on a Saturday night as mein host is out about up n early on a Monday morning. Not to worry as the beer and craic would no doubt disappoint and as we would find out later on, there would be a first too!

The evening, or afternoon I should say started off on a high. At John W’s meeting we agreed to meet at Darlington Snooker Club which was a good aperitif in more ways than one. Not only was Peter the licensee hosting a beer festival with around 20 beers on offer, but he was receiving the award for CAMRA’s North East Club of the Year for the eighth time. No mean feat and what’s more the snooker club has now reached the final four of the National Club of the Year award – nice one!

Having the meeting on the Saturday did have its drawbacks attendance wise though. For the first time in the brewing group’s history, our Glorious Leader John W actually missed a meeting while Big John and Pete gave apologies for absence too so it was just Ian and Rob who got the bus through to Richard’s.

On arrival, we arrived at Richard’s and both Rob and I were pleased to hear that Jack, Richard’s farm dog was conveniently “elsewhere” after the misdemeanours he had done the last time we were here.

Richard had two ales on offer imaginatively named #1 and #2. He did say he was a busy man and was hard pushed to make the beer without having to think of names. I should have made further inquiries as to the exact composition of these ales but I have to admit to a lack of initiative in this direction. In the spirit of good journalistic practise, I will make an attempt to fill in the gaps by whatever means possible.

Number One at 4%. This was a  light coloured ale with pale malt and challenger hops (I think!). This was my favourite beer of the night and was later confirmed by all present as such by the vote.

Number Two had an unfortunate connotation associated with it but did not live up to it. I found it a pleasant enough drink on the night but less flavoursome than Richards other offering.

We were joined by Tony, a friend of Richard and his young lad and not long after were soon were joined by a young lady at the bar which provoked a great deal of interest – a first as previously mentioned! This particular female was more interested in the food on offer rather than the beer. Fear not men! – we were joined byanother of the animal posse in the form of a ginger feline and she turned out to be an inquisitive one at that!

It is also worth noting that I brought along a visitor to the group from Hartlepool David aka Fred who certainly enjoyed his night. Besides the beers on hand pull, Richard brought out a variety of bottled beers mostly dark which gave us all plenty to talk about when we could get a word in past the jolly Fred.

The absence of the two Johns made for a quiet night and no earth shattering decisions were made. I can only apologise at this point for not taking more copious notes but a good night was had by all.

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25TH NOVEMBER AT BIG JOHN’S (ST ANDREW’S BREWING) – Review by Stuart             

Understandably, Johns preparation for tonight’s meeting was a little rushed due to his commitments at the Crafty Pint in recent weeks and months. When I arrived at the meeting tonight, Paul, a new member was already sat at the bar. A little later on Sean, another new member turned up. It’s amazing what Big John running a newly opened bottled beer shop does for attracting new members – bees around the honey pot! Paul and Sean are both brewing already and want to do more. Sean had brought some triple hopped dark ale in bottles which we were all very welcome to sample. Sorry Sean, but I can’t recall the hops other than theNelson Sauvignon but I was able to remember the flavour – strong complex and very nice.

And so onto the beers: Mothers Milk at 4%, Dark Raj at 4% and Taste of Summer at 4.6%.

Mothers Milk was intended as a milk stout and had a fairly complex taste with strong roast barley and chocolate malt flavour.

Dark Raj: This was a dark IPA if that’s possible, and was noticeably hoppy with a strong flavour. On a personal note I thought this was a close second to the beer of the night.

Taste of Summer 4.6%: This was a light ale/bitter of unknown composition quite well balanced with a distinct and pleasant flavour. Despite its unknown origins this particular brew was my personal favourite and voted beer of the night by a wide margin. I was noteworthy that John W went onto the dark side in the voting perhaps due to the onset of winter maybe.

The next meeting is at my place aka the Old Hartlepool Brewery at Old Hartlepool, the place where monkeys fear to tread so the pressure is on me for once.

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16TH DECEMBER AT STUART’S (OLD HARTLEPOOL BREWERY) – Review by Ian           

Tonight brings our last meeting of 2012 and it’s a minibus trip for us folks through to Stuart’s in Hartlepool and to The Heugh (pronounced Hoff) in the Headland area of the town to be precise and where monkeys fear to tread according to the last review! The bus has only six of us on it tonight as new member Paul, Rob and Richard are missing due to illness or other commitments – or are they really just staying in to watch the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award in what has been a memorable year for sport in Blighty ?.

On alighting from the bus outside Stuart’s, the sweeping view of Tees Bay greets us with illuminated oil tankers out to sea and the glowing lights of the now once-again operational British Steel in Redcar. Also in the distance just offshore from Redcar a large oil rig is currently under construction to which John W inquires as to what it is and what it is doing there (?).

Stuart appears at the door and welcomes us in and we troop down the staircase into the basement and into his “pub” which comprises of a wood burner, tables and stools and a huge bar which tonight has 5 beers for us to sample. Each handpump even has a taster glass in front of it to denote the colour of each beer while ships are depicted on the pumpclips with one exception which I’ll mention later.

The first offering from the Old Hartlepool Brewery tonight is Werewolf. It is golden in colour and brewed with Pale and Crystal Malts and three different hops: Challenger and Styrian Goldings are used for the main boil while Goldings is added as a late hop. It has an EBU of 32 and 4.1% in strength. This brew along with tonight’s other beers has been brewed using Safale Yeast due to his ‘contact’ at Camerons being unable to obtain any Camerons yeast.

Badger Ale, also 4.1% and 32 EBU’s is much darker due to a large content of Roast Barley along with Crystal and Pale malts. Challenger and Progress hops provide the bitterness and Goldings is again added as a late hop. Despite plenty of Roast Barley being added, I had expected to taste something along the lines of a stout but it had a fruity taste, something that Roast Barley does provide to the characteristics of a beer.

U-Boot was beer number three (with a picture of a U-Boat on the pumpclip), pale in colour due to only Pale Malt being used in the mash. Aurora hops are added both at the start of boil and as a late hop with Styrian Goldings also added at the start of the boil. This beer is much stronger with an ABV of 4.3% or AVB as Stuart has written on his brewing sheets – he clearly has alcohol by volume and a certain Spurs manager mixed up here!

Clipper IPA weighs in at a whopping 6% and is definitely in the true India Pale Ale traditional style! Besides the Pale Malt, Aurora and Styrian Goldings at the start of the boil provide 45 EBU’s with a generous amount of Saaz added late in the boil. Stuart had also bottled this beer and one was opened for sampling. The consensus from those who tried it was that the bottle version tasted better than the polypin version. Mind you this particular beer had been brewed a couple of months back.

Speaking of bottles, Sean brought some bottled beers along in the form of a chocolate cherry oat stout and forewarns us it may be a bit lively due to the journey over here. However, on opening a few bottles the floor didn’t partake in a “stout shampoo” and very good it was too – at 12.5%!

Finally, last and not least onto the fifth beer: Black Pearl Porter weighing at a hefty 6.1%! Pale, Chocolate and Oat Malts with Roast Barley and Torrified Wheat were guests of the mash tun in an overnight mash while Northdown and Perle were the copper hops with Aurora being the late hops. Brewed at the beginning of December, the taste according to Stuart was a bit of a contentious one, what did it exactly remind anyone of ?. We got an variety of answers including cough medicine, however Pete and Sean reckoned it reminded them of boot polish – mind you I can’t say I’ve never actually tasted boot polish!

Ian had produced a provisional list of group meetings for 2013 which was passed around and a few changes were needed due to holidays etc so the list has bee re-drafted again, click here to the revised list of meetings for 2013. Also up for discussion was the Christmas Party to which Big John kindly offered to host on Saturday 29th December. Food wise, John W our Glorious Leader offered to make one of his legendary corned beef pies with the rest of the group bringing other nibbles and providing a few guest beers behind the bar.

Prior to departure the vote for Beer of the Night took place resulting in a tie between Clipper IPA and Black Pearl Porter. Clipper IPA incidentally was the polypin version voted for and not the bottled version by the way.

Thanks to Stuart for hosting the meeting and I’m pleased to say no monkeys were witnessed fearing to tread in the vicinity! Oh, and Bradley “Wiggo” Wiggins was crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2012.

_______________________________________________________________________________

29TH DECEMBER AT BIG JOHN’S (CHRISTMAS PARTY) – Review by Trevor                   

We just managed to sneak in the Christmas Party before the year finally met its demise, demoted to the annals of history. In situ were our convivial host John Anderson; our Glorious Leader John Winterburn and our Hartlepudlian Stu Armstrong propping up the bar; seated on the settle Richard Beadle; and by the table guarding the pork pies, Pete Fenwick. None of the new lads could make tonight so I have still to meet them. Poor old Rob Brunton is ill and has been for a fortnight.

Taking centre stage was the famous Winterburn corned beef pie, so named from times when it contained corned beef. Joining the pie was black pudding, pork pies, crisps with a couple more nibbles on the bar. Three beers were on offer when I arrived but more appear later.

This is the first meeting I have been at since returning from China – no real ale over there! So what have I missed ?. Nothing as far as reviews go as they have been written by Ian and Stuart and what a fine job they have done. Talking of fine jobs, what say you about our new website – well done Ian Jackson. Talking of Ian, he arrives a bit late but brandishing a polypin of ale. Talking of polypins, I am right down and Richard wants a couple but we are the only two. Offers are made to lend me some if new ones haven’t arrived before my ‘do’ in three weeks time.

We are accompanied tonight by a neighbour’s barking dog who I would keenly throttle. It did bring rise to a conversation on dogs from our Glorious Leader. “You can’t train a Jack Russell, it has a mind of its own.” I tell you, this guy knows everything about everything so why he isn’t running the country is beyond me. Then he starts banging on about a … (if you are squeamish look away now) … a dog that had a throat laceration caused by another dog. Being adept at surgery, Doctor Winterburn stitched up the wound before changing his overall in readiness for cooking the family dinner (you can look now). Still the dog is barking.

“I know what I’d do”, says animal expert Winterburn. “I’d go down to the butchers and get a load of bones and chuck them over the fence. That would keep the dog quiet for a whole day!”. Taking into account that there are no butchers open tonight, we choose to ignore this suggestion.

There’s one area where he is an expert and that’s the knowledge of brewing. And here is a tip he came out with for all would-be brewers: it is better to ferment beer in the cold using a heater than the warmth of, say, a room in your house. The heat (in the cold) will always remain at a constant temperature. Thought you might like to know that. By the way, the dog is still barking.

Stuart has brought with him a few bottles of his own doing. There is an IPA alongside dark ones – the names of which escape him – and all very palatable. Those drunk, it is time for our Glorious Leader to head off home as do the others, leaving Ian, Big John and myself to have another round before we too head for home. We take with us a share of the remaining corned beef pie. Another year finally comes to an end.

Happy New Year!

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