Calverley’s Brewery, Cambridge

Cambridge has a new microbrewery. Calverley’s Brewery has just released its first beer and Sam and Tom invited a few of us along to the brewery for a sample last week. The 4.8% Best Bitter was well received by all, a pleasingly full-bodied beer, malty toffee flavours balanced with good bitterness – we all seemed to keep happily returning for top-ups. A promising start, and there are lots more recipes in the pipeline.

The Best Bitter has already been delivered to the Kingston Arms so that’s likely to be the first pub in Cambridge to serve Calverley’s beer, and also happens to be the nearest pub to the brewery, less than 300 metres from door to door.

Calverley's Brewery

The brewery is located at the end of Hooper Street in one of a cluster of workshop buildings that have included organ builders, upholsterers and garages. The building is shown on an Ordnance Survey map from the 1880s, and presumably dates from the 1870s when most of this area was built up. There were once two pubs on Hooper Street – the Great Eastern Tavern on the corner of Ainsworth Street, and the White Hart, now the Backstreet Bistro, on the corner of Sturton Street. This area off Mill Road was also once home to a couple of breweries – William Worboys Sturton Brewery and off-licence stood on nearby Sturton Street, and Pitson and Newman’s Gwydir Brewery existed at the Mill Road end of Gwydir Street, later the site of Dales Brewery.

It’s a family run venture with brothers Sam and Tom doing the brewing and other family members helping out. The pumpclip shows the brewery logo, an Eagle Owl from the Calverley’s family crest, taken from the coat of arms of Sir John Saville, the first alderman of Leeds – his sister Alice married Sir William Calverley. The Coat of Arms of the City of Leeds also features these owls on a blue background.

Keep an eye out for it in Cambridge pubs this month and hopefully at Cambridge Beer Festival next month…

Good Beer In Porto

Two beer brands dominate in Portugal, with Sagres and Super Bock sharing 80% of the beer market (JPCC Araújo, 2011). In Porto, Super Bock is by far the more popular and widespread of the two, with around 70% of the market share in Northern Portugal (P Nunes, 2010).

Super Bock is in just about every bar, restaurant, cafe and shop in Porto – it was a few days before we came across a bar serving Sagres on draught (Galeria de Paris). However, a few smaller Portuguese breweries, including one in Porto, now offer an alternative to these mass produced lagers. Although the area is obviously most well known for its Port Wine, the city’s speciality dish, francesinha, is essentially a cheese sandwich in a beer sauce.

Sovina

Sovina

Os Três Cervejeiros (The Three Brewers) in Porto launched the Sovina brand in October 2011 and produce a handful of unfiltered, ‘artisan’ beers. We first tried them in Mercearia das Flores, a cafe and delicatessen that is, so far as we know at the time of writing, the only place to serve draught Sovina in Porto. The Helles we tried there remains my favourite of their beers – full-bodied, grainy, slightly sweet, a lingering nettly hop bitterness – we returned the following day for more. It was served with a bowl of Lupini beans which, once you’ve got the knack of popping the beans from the skin, are a perfect accompaniment, slightly bitter and with some residual salt from the brine.

Mercearia das Flores

Lupini e lúpulo

We also bought bottles of the Stout, Amber, Trigo (hefeweizen) and the IPA, a bitter and spicy English style IPA which we later encountered again at Casa da Horta, enjoying a bottle with our meal. We were tempted by their limited edition beer aged in Port wine barrels, but not enough to pay over 30 Euros for it, althought rest of the beers were only €3 per bottle.

Mercearia das Flores

Cerveja Letra

Mercearia das Flores also had several bottles from Cerveja Letra, a brewery less than 50 miles north of Porto, whose beers have only been available since last October. Founded by two researchers at the University of Minho, the brewery has so far released four beers, letters A to D, but they plan to continue through the alphabet as they experiment with different recipes.

Cerveja Letra

The Letra B Pilsner was outstanding, fruity and grassy, the nicest beer we had during our trip to Porto, and although we weren’t keen on the weiss beer and couldn’t finish it, we really enjoyed the red ale and wished we could have tried the stout (Letra C) but Mercearia das Flores had sold out.

Vadia

Vadia

A short walk away, Prova on Rua Ferreira Borges had bottles from Vadia, a brewery established in 2006 less than 50 miles south of Porto in Aviero. We only tried the Vadia Ruiva, and it was okay, but a bit too acidic for my tatses, and I’ll admit I preferred a Super Bock.

Super Bock

Super Bock

I enjoyed Super Bock, in the same way I enjoy a Cruzcampo or Estrella Damm when in Spain – no doubt the sunshine and setting helped, but I found it crisp and refreshing, the sweet malty finish may be subtle but is still more flavoursome than it’s competitor Sagres.

Super Bock has its own restaurant in Porto, Caves da Cerveja, with a range of beers and various bits of brewing equipment assembled to suggest it is brewed on site (it isn’t). Despite the range available, had they not been tasted back-to-back, I doubt I would have noticed much difference between the Super Bock, the Puro Malte and the Abadia. The tasting notes describe the beers as ‘artesanal’, and emphasise the “freshness and purity of it’s components” with the tagline ‘Sabor Autentico’ – authentic flavour, whatever that actually means. It’s tempting to imagine these descriptions are a response to an emerging threat from microbreweries, but it seems they’ve been describing their beers like this for at least the past fifteen years.

It’s only ten years ago that Super Bock launched a stout, finally offering an alternative to their ubiquitous lager. Probably one of the most enjoyable of their beers, it poured with a creamy head and, although the roasty flavours were muted, went down easily.

Sagres

Sagres MiniSagres also produces a stout – Sagres preta – with a similarly creamy head but more towards coal smoke than the roasty Super Bock Stout. Again, enjoyable enough, which is more than can be said for Sagres’ main product, a thin, bland lager that no doubt is best enjoyed cold in the heat of an Algarve summer, but even then would perhaps be no more refreshing than the water before any of the ingredients were added. For reasons I can’t quite appreciate, both Sagres and Super Bock are popular in mini bottles, with Sagres even available in mini can.

So, there’s good beer to be found in Porto, it’s just not widespread, but it seems the choice will continue to increase in the near future…

Mean Sardine

Cambridge Winter Ale Festival 18

Cambridge Winter Ale Festival starts today at 5pm. Here’s a quick look at some of the beers that will be available over the next few days…

Local beers

Several Cambridgeshire breweries are represented with Bexar County (Peterborough), Mile Tree (Wisbech) and Red (Great Staughton) all returning after making their debuts last year.

Bexar County returns with an even bigger San Jacinto along with another two new beers – Kaas brewed with peppercorn and Belgian yeast, and a Big Black Rum Raisin that sounds like it would make a good ice cream float. Mile Tree brings back Adventurer along with a couple more new brews and Red has Staughton Bitter again and a limited edition seasonal ‘Winter’s Solstice’.

From other locals breweries, there are six from Blackbar including another release from last year’s Marzen, Fellows turns up the volume with 7%+ Double Stout and IPA, Milton have a special, Minerva’s Owl, brewed with help from Professor Mary Beard, Moonshine has a beer for just about every occasion, including a strong Vintage Matured Limitless Abundance (the last cask of this and Ison!) which made an appearance last year and which is even bigger and better this year, along with beers from Son of Sid and Tydd Steam.

There are debuts here for Cambridge Brew House, the nearest brewery to the festival, and from further afield, Animal Brewing Co of Buckinghamshire have a couple of “one off limited edition beers” made by little creatures that sneak into XT Brewery at night, apparently!

Award winning beers

There are some beers which have previously picked up awards at the Champion Beers of Britain:

  • Elland 1872 Porter – Current Supreme Champion Beer of Britain!
  • Kelham Island Pale Rider – Supreme CBOB 2004
  • Mauldon Black Adder – Supreme CBOB 1991
  • RCH P. G. Steam – Gold in the Bitter category at CBOB 2010
  • Triple FFF Moon Dance – Bronze overall at CBOB 2006

Bartrams Cherry Stout was overall winner of Cambridge Beer Festival 2000

Milton Marcus Aurelius – They used to collect votes for beer of the fest at the Cambridge Winter Ale fest too, this beer was the winner in 2007, and I think is the only previous winning beer to return this year.

And many, many more – over 100 real ales, cider and of course the beers on the overseas bar.

CWAF

Cambridge Pubs with a Jukebox

The other night a friend visiting Cambridge wanted to find a pub with a jukebox and I could only be certain of one, so we ended up at the King Street Run. I probably hadn’t ploughed money into that particular pub’s jukebox since the 90s, but then most of the songs we put on were at least that old, and conversation revolved around the records being played.

Which prompted me to put together a list, with the help of Twitter, of which Cambridge pubs currently/probably have a jukebox:

Dobblers 184 Sturton Street CB1 2QF
Carlton Arms Carlton Way CB4 2BY
Earl Of Beaconsfield 133 Mill Road CB1 3AA
Empress 72 Thoday Stree CB1 3AX
Emperor 21 Hills Road CB2 1NW
Geldart 1 Ainsworth Street CB1 2PF
King Street Run 86 King Street CB1 1LN
Portland Arms 129 Chesterton Road CB4 3BA
Salisbury Arms, Tenison Road CB1 2DW
Six Bells 11 Covent Garden CB1 2HS

Earl of Beaconsfield Jukebox

Earl of Beaconsfield

The Golden Pints Beer Awards 2013

Golden PintsLooking back over a year of so many outstanding beers and pubs, it’s been really difficult trying to narrow it down to just a few winners, but here’s my attempt.

Thanks to Mark Dredge at Pencil and Spoon and Andy Mogg at Beer Reviews for running the awards again.

Best UK Cask Beer

1st: Moor Freddy Walker. Wonderful at Cambridge Beer Festival this year, I enjoyed serving this to people and noticed several take a first sip and briefly close their eyes as they savoured the moment!
2nd – A tricky one this, I’ve enjoyed a lot of great UK beer this year with many standouts, but for a period this summer Oakham Citra seemed to be on everywhere, largely because it appeared on Greene King’s guest list so here in the heartland plenty of pubs had it on. It became the default beer, yet on every occasion it proved consistently refreshing. Making a beer like that must take some doing.
Honorable mentions: Bexar County Papa Steve at Peterborough Beer Festival, Moonshine Ison at Cambridge Winter Beer Fest, Blackbar BBB4B at the Green Man Grantchester, Adnams Fat Sprat instantly became my favourite of their beers and Mighty Oak Kings for being one of the best of many many Citra hopped beers.

Best UK Keg Beer

1st: Buxton Wyoming Sheep Ranch. Had this when it was launched at the Euston Tap and was generously given a special 500ml bottle of it to take home, just one of many great beers I’ve enjoyed from Buxton.
2nd: Magic Rock Cannonball. Likewise, I could have chosen any from this brewery, every one I’ve tried has been great, but Cannonball takes some beating.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer

1st: Thornbridge Jaipur. As Waitrose is so close to our house, I’ve tended to find an excuse to visit most days and always seem to come back with a few bottles of Jaipur. It’s probably the beer I’ve had most of throughout this year, and it hits the spot every time.

Best Overseas Draught

1st: Maine Beer Co – Peeper Ale. On draught in New York, Boston and Portland, simply one of the finest beers I’ve had the pleasure of drinking.

Honorable mentions: Evil Twin’s Yuzu Pale was ridiculously good, a bold, bretty IPA that laughs in the face of other beers that consider themselves ‘citrusy’. A number of Pretty Things beers have impressed, particularly Meadowlark IPA. Lagunitas IPA is the overseas beer I’ve probably had the most this year, especially as it’s travelled so well to these shores.

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The Session #82: Beery Yarns

The SessionThis month’s Session is hosted by Beer’s I’ve Known who has chosen what promises to be a great topic for these long winter nights – Beery Yarns:

I want to hear your beery tall tales, yarns, recollections (in a Grandpa Simpson stylee) or otherwise, delivered in the manner that befits sitting around a log fire, favourite beer in hand. Only proviso is that it has to involve beer in some way.

For my contribution I’ve also collected together a few random tales I’ve read that could loosely be considered beery yarns, at least they all involve pubs.

A Noted Liar

I’m hoping there’ll be some contributions along the lines of the World’s Biggest Liar Competition that’s still held in Cumbria each year at the Bridge Inn, Santon Bridge. Story-telling competitions occured in pubs here in Cambridge too:

“One of the ways in which people have always found pleasant relaxation at the end of a day’s work is in either listening to or narrating good stories over a glass of ale.

As the evening progressed the tales tended to become more exaggerated and improbable, and many elderely Cambridgeshire people have recalled that it was customary to reward the narrators with some token of their listeners’ appreciation. The award usually took the form of free beer, but there were other prizes – a ‘silver’ cup, crudely made of thin tin and suitably inscribed; a ribbon rosette or a medal. These were usually kept in the public house and solemnly handed to the teller of the story which was judged to be the ‘tallest’ of the evening.

In 1964 a blacksmith-made iron ‘medal’ bearing the words ‘The Noted Liar’ was found in the garden of the Pike and Eel at Chesterton. This inn was a popular meeting-place not only of local people, but also of the watermen who used to work on the barges and lighters which carried goods between King’s Lynn and Cambridge. It is very probable that this medal was pinned to the coat of many a good story-teller” (Cambridgeshire Customs and Folklore, Enid Porter, 1969)

Unfortunately that particular riverside pub closed a few years ago and faces demolition to be replaced by flats, bringing to an end that story.

Noted Liar

‘The Noted Liar’ – Medal for a Story Teller, from Cambridgeshire Customs and Folklore, Enid Porter

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Christmas time, mistletoe and… beer

It’s that time of the year again, when session bitters masquerading as winter warmers can line up alongside genuinely festive offerings like the seasonal Belgian beers, and all be loosely described as Christmas Beers. Among them this year we found a new Christmas Ale that lived up to the promise of being “full of festive flavour”. It’s also the beer that most looks like it was brewed by Santa Claus himself.

Norfocopia

Norfocopia, based in Didlington, Norfolk, only started earlier this year and beers flavoured with birch sap, gorse flowers and elderflowers soon appeared at Peterborough Beer Festival. The label describes how the Christmas Ale was brewed:

Each day the fermenting ale is ‘dropped’ into another vessel and a different ingredient added – figs soaked in Brandy, then Christmas mincemeat soaked in country wine and finally a seasonal blend of spices.

Most of those ingredients were evident in the aroma, a waft of cloves, cinnamon and fruit cake, while the flavour and mouthfeel was overwhelmingly like red fruit wine, with cranberries and more spice, low carbonation and lighter bodied than I’d have expected of a beer based on “a normal stout recipe”, not full bodied enough for me but full of festive flavour alright. My interest in the brewery is further piqued by the description of a forthcoming pale ale “fermented with saffron and coconut infused Thai rice”. I picked up my bottle of Norfocopia Christmas Ale from Beautiful Beers.

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